January 18, 2010
Share this story:

Mark McGwire

Mark McGwire

by Brad Eastland







      I’ll get right to it.   I have nothing but contempt for fallen home-run king Mark David McGwire.

      And it’s not because he took steroids.   (Well, partly.)

      And it’s not because last week he finally admitted it.   (Well, a little bit.)

      It’s because he regards us, he still regards us (you, me, all baseball fans, and every baseball journalist who still delights in pressing his or her lips against his butt and sucking in his superstar aura) as nothing more than a flock of hero-worshipping idiots who are more than willing to accept and tolerate anything he ever thought, did, or said as long as it comes with an apology.   No matter how disingenuous and pathetic that apology is.

      And make no mistake about it—as apologies go, this one has got to be the most pathetic, the most self-serving, the absolute worst Sports apology of all time.

      Regular readers of the Sports Philosopher (gee, I hope by now that there’s more than a few of you) already know how I feel about athletes who apologize.   There is no such thing as a sincere Sports apology.   It is always part of a specific agenda, whether it’s to get into his sport’s Hall of Fame or to win back fan support or to retain lucrative commercial endorsements.   In that respect, McGwire’s apology is no different.   His agenda happens to involve going back to work.   Since he is now—suddenly and surprisingly—the new hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals, rather than the complete Howard Hughes-like recluse he’d been since he retired, he knew he had to come clean pronto about his obvious steroid use and his pathetic, cowardly appearance before Congress in 2005 or he’d be facing constant and unrelenting media scrutiny during the season.   He knew that there is no way he could have remained meekly in the shadows and then suddenly showed up at Spring Training expecting to be ignored.

      So he confessed.   Sort of.

      McGwire’s apology, the most denial-laden, self-serving, and utterly disingenuous hedge of an apology I have ever heard, is proof that the American people, and especially sports writers, are suckers.   Bob Costas practically teared up when he interviewed him.   ESPN’s Howard Bryant, normally a fine reporter, declared that McGwire “gained respect as a man”.   Rob Neyer wrote “perhaps he really is sorry”.   Bob Ley interviewed him on camera, started to get tough, but when McGwire started “speaking from his heart” Ley immediately backed off and like so many other star-struck sports writers he happily re-attached his lips to the Big Cheat’s butt.  

      Let’s review McGwire’s “apology”.

      *McGwire says he took steroids for basically all ten years he was a big star, from 1989 till 1999.    But he “doesn’t remember the names” of any of the steroids he took.   Huh?

      *McGwire says taking steroids was “the stupidest thing I’ve ever done”, but maintains he didn’t take them to improve his performance or bolster his power numbers.   He says he took steroids just to “get healthy” and that’s all.   For ten years.   Huh?

      *McGwire, when Bob Ley asked him why he kept taking steroids even after he was healthy, said he only took additional steroids “for a few weeks during the summer when my body was breaking down”.   Just a few extra weeks every summer, only when he really needed it, he explained.   Huh?

      *And finally, McGwire has actually somehow summoned the nerve to declare that steroids did not help him hit any of those gargantuan home runs or establish any of those massive records, that “only God can help you hit a baseball” etc etc.   HUH???   Is that how dumb he thinks we are?   The man swelled and morphed like the Incredible Hulk during the early 90s, when he was really using steroids heavily….it didn’t help him hit the ball farther?   It didn’t help turn slight mis-hits into round-trippers?   It didn’t triple his confidence?   It didn’t help him to wait longer on pitches because the bat suddenly felt like a feather in his meaty hands?   And most important, didn’t his numbers absolutely soar from what steroids does for the body in the short term, i.e. allowing it to recover and heal oh so very quickly, allowing the user to play in oh so many more games, to practice longer and work harder and still be able to recover immediately and still not miss any games while concurrently getting bigger and stronger and more confident—that didn’t help him to hit many many many dozen more home runs than he would have been able to hit had he not spent ten years treating his ass like a juice sucking pin cushion???    Are you kidding, Mark???   Are we that dumb, Mark???

      As a liar, McGwire could give lessons to even Bill Clinton.  

      I hate to keep pecking away at President Clinton, it seems like he works his way into the back door of half my columns lately, but heck, he’s such an easy target, such a liar, so pathetic, so brazen, so coldly calculating, that he always seems to afford us with a worthy point of comparison.   Clinton: I didn’t do anything with Monica Lewinsky…oh yes I did, but it wasn’t sex, because various definitions of sex don’t include oral sex and remember I have to legally protect myself….sure, I smoked dope, but I didn’t inhale….okay, maybe I did, who cares….and no, I didn’t sleep with Gennifer Flowers, ever….okay I did, but only a little bit, not for twelve long, secret, satisfying years like she said….but everything’s okay because the economy is in good shape and I’m really sorry.   McGwire: I never used steroids (he said repeatedly in the late 90s), and how dare you pipsqueak reporters continue to berate me for something I’m innocent of?   Okay I retire, my body has broken down yet again….my dear congressmen, I’m not here to talk about the past, which of course is code for I need to protect my family….everybody leave me alone….being a recluse sure is weird….Hey, thanks for the job, Tony (Tony being LaRussa, his career-long coach in Oakland and then St. Louis), obviously no one else would hire me; feel free to lie about what you did and didn’t know about my steroid gulping.…wait a minute, you mean now I have to come clean?   Really?   Publicly?   Okay, but I’m only going to admit doing it, I’m not going to take responsibility for anything more than I have to….’better call Pat Maris first, ‘ease my conscience….why am I so conflicted?   Of course I didn’t do anything wrong, let’s make that clear; and I didn’t hit one single extra home run as a result of the steroid juice I stuck in my tushie for ten years….I worked hard, all I did was maximize the tremendous talent the Good Lord gave me….gotta gimme credit for playing the God card, folks….but the bottom line here is I’m a really genuine guy, and I always speak to America directly from my heart….anyway, I’m back America.   I missed you.   Oh, and did I say I’m really sorry?

      McGwire and Clinton should go on tour together.   They’d make a great disingenuous comedy team; two compulsive liars seeking love in a gullible, forgiving world.

      Perhaps the only character in this pathetic play more pathetic than McGwire himself is Rich Maris.   Rich is one of Roger Maris’s sons, Roger Maris, of course, being the man who used to hold the single-season home run record until the Big Cheat came along.   When McGwire came clean he told us that his very first call, before he went public, was to Pat Maris, Roger’s widow, because he wanted to apologize to her and her kids directly.   I mean who can forget that memorable scene in 1998, just after McGwire belted home run #62, when he went over to the box seats where the Maris family grimly huddled and then everybody hugged?   It was great theater.   Heck, Billy Crystal even made a movie about it.  

      Anyway, he called Pat and the kids and apologized to them, it was very emotional, lots of tears etc.   So when Bob Ley asked McGwire what he was in fact apologizing for if he didn’t even think steroids helped him to hit those home runs and break Maris’s record or any other records, McGwire replied, “That’s just me, Bob,” and went on to say that he felt he owed it to Pat Maris and that that’s just the kind of wonderful guy he is blah blah blah.   Here’s where Ley could have nailed McGwire to the cross for all of us.   He should have said, “Excuse me, Mark, but you didn’t answer the question!   You didn’t come close to answering the question!   You must have felt a HUGE measure of guilt for stealing Maris’s record or you wouldn’t have made Pat Maris your first phone call, you wouldn’t have apologized if you didn’t feel massive and genuine guilt for cheating history, cheating Maris, Maris’s legacy, his wife, his kids—why can’t you just admit it, Mark?   Why can’t you take this golden opportunity to send a genuinely productive message regarding steroids to the disillusioned youth of America???”   But no, Bob Ley let McGwire off the hook.   He immediately dropped the subject, and thus immediately re-attached his lips to the spongy flesh of the Big Cheat’s ample butt.

      But back to Rich Maris.   After McGwire apologized to the Maris kids, apologized for something he says he didn’t even do, namely using steroids to gain the unfair competitive edge necessary to shatter the most important record in all of sports, Rich Maris, get this, declared that his good friend Mark McGwire is “a very genuine guy”.   That’s a direct quote.   A very genuine guy.   A very genuine guy.   A very genuine guy.   A very genuine guy?   Are you kidding?   Is he kidding???   GENUINE???   The guy who soured and soiled his own father’s legacy by conspiring to defraud him out of the home run record?   Is Maris’s kid so anxious and eager to spend a few minutes in the national limelight whilst smooching the Big Cheat’s butt that he really thinks the all-time poster boy for lying and disingenuousness and phoniness and cold calculating agenda pursuing is “a very genuine guy”???   A very genuine guy who he “loves like a brother”?   Is that really the world we live in?  

      Does McGwire’s butt taste that good?

      McGwire’s complete fall from grace is especially painful to observe from the crystal-clear vantage point of this column.   Because he is one of La Verne’s own.   That’s right; the Big Cheat graduated from La Verne’s Damien High School in the early 80s.  (I assume that was before he began shooting drugs into his ass, but I’m not sure of anything at this point.)

      Perhaps the only demographic largely unmoved by McGwire’s “apology” is the not-so-silent fraternity of former Major League ballplayers.   Here’s former MLB slugger Jack Clark: “It’s a shame that he thinks we’re all stupid, that he only did [steroids] because of injuries.  That’s such a cop-out, such a lie.  These guys did [steroids] to take the money to pump up their egos and then take their consequences down the road.  [McGwire is] a sad excuse for a player in the industry of baseball.   Just seeing him in uniform makes me throw up.”   And here’s what former Cincy relief pitcher Rob Dibble had to say: “This guy cheated every player like myself, Steve Trachsel, Don Mattingly, Paul Molitor, anybody who didn’t have to use performance enhancing drugs,” Dibble said. “I don’t care if it’s for health, statistics, financial, it doesn’t matter.   I find it ironic that McGwire had a list and he waited five years to call these people on the list; the Maris family and all these other people on this ‘list’ that he knows he cheated, he knows he lied to.   All he is doing here is doing more self-serving stuff so that he can come back to Major League Baseball as a hitting coach.   I don’t think Major League Baseball should allow Mark McGwire back in the game.   This guy has not done enough to tell people the truth.   Mark McGwire is a cheat, he’s a liar and he ripped us all off.   And he owes the players that did it on the up-and-up — the Eric Davises, the Don Mattinglys, whose statistics fall short of the Hall of Fame — an apology.”

      Cool.   (Except the part where Dibble asks for an apology, of course….)

      Here’s the thing: Barry Bonds has since broken McGwire’s single-season home run record.   All evidence indicates he no doubt gobbled up a bunch of steroids as well, though he hasn’t admitted anything yet.   And Bonds was a way, way better ballplayer than Mark McGwire ever dreamed of being, a better player, probably, than just about anyone who ever stepped into a batter’s box.

      But the one thing the prickly Bonds never was, was a hero.

      Mark McGwire was a hero.   He was Paul Bunyan in cleats.   His home runs were as majestic as purple mountains, he was literally larger than life.   And for one glorious summer in 1998, he was our one true baseball god.   He was Zeus sitting atop baseball’s Mount Olympus.   He was Zeus, Sammy Sosa was Apollo.   Together they reached down and touched mere mortals like us, infusing us with Faith, Hope and Joy, and in the comet-tail wake of their home run chase they lifted baseball out of the abyss it had plunged itself into during the baseball strike of 1994 and 1995.   They actually gave little kids—and all us adult kids—something we could believe in.   Miracles were suddenly possible, greatness was alive and ready to be celebrated again, glorious achievement had finally supplanted mediocrity as our National Religion.   Remember how great it was?

      And now what.   The whole glorious dream dashed against the rocks like a ship of fools run aground on a sandy shoal.   McGwire cheated history, cheated baseball, cheated Roger Maris, cheated us, lied about it, shrank cowardly into the shadows for nearly a decade, finally admitted only as much as he figured he needed to admit in order to keep his new job, and in the process he has begun lying about it all over again.   And now he expects us to believe him and forgive him and love him, again.

      Not me.  

      When my son and I talk about it I tell him I regard McGwire as the very paradigm of a negative role model in Sports.   Someone to be reviled, not praised.   Someone to study, in order to know how not to behave when he becomes an adult.   Someone who, if ever they create a Sports Hall of Shame, can be its George Washington.   Namely its first president, elected by acclamation.

      Well I guess that’s about all there is to say on the subject.   Except this.   I’m a big believer in things like irony, karma, cosmic repetition, and coincidences that can’t possibly be coincidences.   (I don’t understand any of it, but I’m a big fan of it.)  

      So in the interest of both entertainment and maybe making you all think a little bit, let me point out just two stray items.

1.         Mark David McGwire and Mark David Chapman?   I’m just saying.

2.         Damien High School and Damien also being the name of the evil child who turns out to be the Anti-Christ in the Gregory Peck movie The Omen?   I’m just saying.


Brad Eastland

Brad Eastland


The Sports Philosopher

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, baseball fan, and sports nut, in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    He has also written four novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of Brad’s fiction work can be discovered and enjoyed within the links below :





One Response to “La Verne’s Own Falls From Grace:THE SAD, SHAMEFUL STORY OF MARK DAVID McGWIRE”

  1. What a great well thought out article. I am sick and tired of these phony apologies that are only now being made because their is a paycheck down the road for him to get back into baseball.

    He must think we are all stupid. I feel for the Maris family and the fact it took 5 years for him to call them. I have lost all respect for him and wish baseball would step up and take him off the ballot or put an asterick next to his records. They will never do it.

    The Commissioner is still in denial and says the steroid era is over. First he denied it existed. What a joke he is as well.

    Good job on this article. Have a great week.


Leave a Reply