September 8th, 1998. 8:18pm: Mark McGwire hits a line drive that carries just enough to clear the left field wall. Home Run No. 62, breaking Roger Maris' single season record.
I'll forever remember that moment. Just as I'll remember March 17th, 2005. When the disgraced ex-slugger, only a fraction of his once cartoon-like size, held back tears as he refused, sometimes incoherently, to address illegal performance enhancing drug allegations.
The man who once enjoyed stratospheric celebrity was now seemingly hoping for mercy from a public who came to realize they were entertained by an illegal drug cheat.
But it's surely more complicated than that. After all, McGwire's record was broken only three years later by Barry Bonds -- who we've since learned also used illegal performance enhancing drugs. Usage was rampant in Major League Baseball for much of a generation.
Bonds was forced out of the game. He remained a capable player, yet no team wanted the negative press he brought. Others such as Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens had to publicly address illegal performance enhancing drug allegations. Even though they both likely lied, they were forced to speak.
But not McGwire. He retired from the game just before the Steroid Era came to light. While he previously denied illegal performance enhancing drug use, those denials stopped when under penalty of perjury. He has never given an interview about the topic since.
Last Monday changes everything. The Cardinals announced McGwire will be returning to the team as hitting coach this coming season.
McGwire will no longer be able to avoid addressing "the past," as he referred to it on Capitol Hill. He will no longer be able to avoid the limelight. He'll be around the media almost every single day for at least seven months beginning in March.
The question isn't if he'll speak, it's rather what he'll say.
McGwire has one last opportunity. One final chance to do what's right. To regain the public's respect. To tell the truth.
Even if we already know the truth, McGwire has never admitted it.
Hopefully that changes. But history tells us, that's unlikely.
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