It had to be done. You know it has been a load on Mark McGwire's mind since Tony LaRussa brought him back to baseball as hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. Back in the public eye.
Spring training with the Cardinals would have been a train wreck. Every day with McGwire under cross-examination, and reporting day was closing in.
Give him a gentle applause, if you choose, but McGwire had been biting his nails since LaRussa hired him. He had been out of sight, for the most part, since that day he appeared before Congress with a few of his fellow miscreants. Even now, could anyone believe him when he said, "I did not take steroids for strength purposes."
Or, that he had medical problems, and that what he did was for his health. Sorry, Mac.
Surely you could see the difference in the McGwire body, trim and lithe, in his Oakland uniform we saw on television. Then the burly, heavy-muscled McGwire in his Cardinal garb.
Through it all, Tony LaRussa had stood by, and greeted his day of cleansing with studied surprise. Whether real or not. I like to think it was, for I like the man, and respect him. But there is the McGwire who has spent most of the last nine years in a closet, except for that grumpy appearance in Congress, when he said, "I'm not here to talk about the past."
He blamed it on lawyers. That they told him to do it. This time he came to talk about the past, no lawyers involved. For that matter, not the Hall of Fame, but a conscience that was triggered the closer he got to facing the real world in spring training. It had become more than the road to Cooperstown.
Dale Murphy said it, "This is more than the Hall of Fame," and he could speak to that for each year he gets his usual 10 percent of the Hall of Fame vote. Of course, the question we Hall of Fame voters are being polled, now that Big Mac has come clean.
"Will you vote for him now?" comes the question.
The answer is, I didn't vote for him before, surely not now. But I vote annually for Murphy, who represents baseball in its most admirable form. Now, we have the trash of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero to be disposed of, then we can feel cleansed with Henry Aaron as the all-time home run record-holder and Roger Maris as the single-season record-holder.
Puzzled me, I must add, that McGwire felt he should give an apologetic call to the Maris family. But, there was a lot going through his besieged mind, so give him credit for that. As for the rest, forget it. You can't send the water back up the fall, nor allow him egress to the Hall.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures likes Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He will write periodic columns for the Daily Post.