“Padres-Good Man-Bad Controversy”
He brought us one of the great moments in baseball, in a time when the game was trying to recover from the stainful shame of all the work stoppages.
You remember that time don’t you? Close your eyes, and see them congratulating each other at home plate. See the high fives with the fans. The love affair with everyone of his at bats. The special hugs with the family of Roger Maris. September 7th of that year was special that year of 1998..
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and the home run derby they race they shared was really special, at the tail end of the 1998-season. They were chasing Roger Maris’ single season record of 61. McGwire wound up at 70, Sosa at 68. .
Of course we all suspected they were doing steroids, and they were. Big Mac, to Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro to Roger Clemens. And Bonds followed years later with 73 in a record setting steroid stained single season mark, a summer of disdain and discomfort for the game..
McGwire came back to baseball after retirement, years after what looked to be a terrible exile. He came back and worked for the only ones who liked him, Tony LaRussa and St. Louis. Now he is the bench coach with the San Diego Padres, after a tenure as hitting coach with the Dodgers, and before that with the Cardinals.
McGwire, part of the home run hitting core, the Bruise Brothers, of the Oakland A’s back in the day, with the other cheat Jose Conseco. Taking things that baseball had yet to test for. MLB had stopped cocaine and marijuana and amphetamines, but steroids, and then HGH would take years to get tests put in place.
Big Mac appeared before Congress in its steroid probe. But unlike the others, he spoke. About yes, using steroids to get healthy from all the injuries he had early in his A’s career. Steroids, at that time were not tested for in the Grand Old Game.
But he admitted he did, and he testified he wished he had not. Unlike the others who lied, pointed fingers, filed lawsuits, refused to testify.
He came clean about being dirty, but talked about the reasons. And because of that intellectual approach, he came back to the game, and has been respected ever since, because of that honesty.
He’s turned out to be a pretty good hitting coach, in St. Louis and in LA, and now he accepts the challenge to become Andy Greene’s right hand man as the Padres rookie manager takes over in the dugout.
The 583-homers are tainted. The baseball record book, the bible, is stained by all those who cheated. But how he handled this, and how open he has been about talking about it, has brought a bit of respect back.
He loves the game, and he is giving back, after taking records and money, and a needle.
I don’t know if baseball fans will forgive and forget. But I remember what that instance with Sosa meant to a game that was in so much trouble. And having interviewed him 3-times since he returned to the game, I came away impressed with his candor and his work in the batting cages..
Hopefully the work he does with Padres hitters will be impressive too.