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Mark McGwire finally admitted publicly today that he used steroids and human growth hormone during his brilliant yet tarnished Major League Baseball career. He’s a pitiable figure.
I vividly recall the night he overtook Roger Maris for the single-season home run record, how he circled the bases and exuberantly hoisted his son in his arms, how the network announcers fawned poetically over his one-for-the-ages achievement.
What a crock.
With all those homers flying out of the ballparks, the ball had to be juiced, right? No, it was the players themselves. Corporate Baseball ignored that while counting gate receipts and broadcast revenue.
I wish I could say I was wise to what was happening. Like millions of other fans, I got caught up in the wonder of the players battling to hit 60, 61, 62 and then, almost inconceivable it was, 70 home runs in a season.
The first inkling I had that something wasn’t kosher probably came around the end of the 1996 season, when Baltimore’s Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs. In the four previous seasons in which he played full-time or nearly so, his totals were 21, 13, 12 and 16. But 50?
I don’t know if Anderson has ever been linked to steroids, but his prodigious output came about the time that others started their ramp-ups to power levels at previously unseen levels. As the players bulked up, their numbers got fatter and fatter.
It’s been so long it’s difficult to recall that Barry Bonds was listed on his 1987 Topps baseball card at 6’1″, 185 pounds, skinny as the proverbial rail. At the tail end of his career, his weight was listed at 236 pounds. Yes, we men all put on a few pounds as time and gravity take their toll. But most of us don’t transform from stick men into Popeye in such a short span.
I find it a bit curious that McGwire, who developed those “I eats me spinach” forearms at mid-career, unburdened himself only a few days after the latest round of Hall of Fame balloting. The numbers McGwire posted are real and are already recorded in the logs of the game. But at this point, I believe there’s little chance McGwire himself will make it to Cooperstown except, perhaps, as a visitor.