by Ray McNulty
Scripps Howard News Service
March 18, 2005
Anybody out there still think Mark McGwire didn't use steroids to help break Roger Maris' single-season home run record? Sammy, put your hand down. If you had nothing to say when it mattered, we don't want to hear from you now.
And you, Jose, wipe that smirk off your face.
This isn't funny.
It's sad, really.
It's sad for baseball. It's sad for all of us who thought we could trust what we were seeing in 1998. It's especially sad for the Maris family, which was duped along with everyone else.
We thought we were witnessing history when McGwire broke Maris' single-season home run record and went on to hit 70.
We believed we were watching something special, something unforgettable, something we could share with our grandchildren.
We cheered for him, celebrated with him, got caught up in that feel-good moment when McGwire hit more home runs in one season than anyone who ever played the game.
In fact, it was McGwire and his slugging partner, Sammy Sosa, who brought America back to the ballpark with their fun-to-watch, home run duel during that magical summer of '98. They made us forget the players strike that robbed us of the 1994 World Series. They made it fun to be a baseball fan again.
But it didn't last.
Here we are, not even seven years later, and we can't feel good about anything McGwire did.
All we can feel is cheated and betrayed and, maybe, a little stupid.
Because, in hindsight, we should've known better. We saw his Hulk-like frame. We saw batted balls take off like tee shots. We heard all about the Andro.
We should've suspected something, should've figured something wasn't right, should've at least wondered whether he was on the juice.
Then again, after all the labor trouble, maybe we didn't want to know. But we know now.
Or at least we should.
Appearing Thursday before the House Government Reform Committee, McGwire all but admitted he used steroids during his playing career - by refusing to deny it.
Several times during the hearing, McGwire was asked the one question he needed most to answer.
Each time, the answer was the same: "I'm not here to talk about the past."
Frank Thomas denied using steroids. So did Rafael Palmeiro, who pointed at the panel as he said, "I have never used steroids, period ... never." Even Sosa, who spent the afternoon saying he didn't know anything about anything, put his denial on the record.
But not McGwire.
"I want to make this a positive thing," McGwire said.
But he won't say whether he used the stuff or not.
And when asked if the use of steroids was cheating - when he had a chance to make a real statement - he whiffed.
"That's not for me to determine," he said.
Apparently, McGwire has lost more than his muscles. He's lost his spine. He's lost respect. He's probably lost his revered place in the game.
McGwire was once one of the good guys in baseball, a larger-than-life home run hero.
Now, he looks small, even smaller than Jose Canseco, whose tell-all book prompted Congress to get involved.
We know what Canseco did. He admitted it.
And, now, we also know what McGwire did.
He didn't deny it. He didn't say much of anything.
And that told us all we needed to know.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.