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Choking Up At the Plate
Rick Reilly
March 28, 2005
Dear Mark McGwire,
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March 28, 2005

Choking Up At The Plate

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Dear Mark McGwire,

I've known you--what?--19 years, since you broke into the majors. You were always a big man with big hands that hugged the little people and a big heart that made you cry at corny movies.

But last week in Washington, D.C., in front of a congressional committee, you looked small and weak. You were the Incredible Shrinking Man up there. They say getting off steroids will do that to your body. Can it do that to your morals, too?

It's hard to get used to this new you. I remember when you had the courage of 10 men. And always talked about "karma." And refused millions from McDonald's because you didn't eat Big Macs. And started a foundation and gave $3 million to help abused kids. What happened to caring about kids, Mac? Did that disappear like your 17-inch forearms?

I know, I know. You don't want to talk about the past. You said that almost every time a committee member asked you a question. You'd swallow a little more of your pride and then choke out, "I'm not here to talk about the past."

But I am. Remember? Seven years ago? Number 62?

Against a blinding glare, you thrilled us with your power and humility. Fans held up signs--HIT IT HERE, MARK--at football games. Columnists said you were helping the country heal from Monicagate. Even President Clinton said, "I'm sorry," for cheating.

Imagine that.

You went on to hit a pupil-popping 70 home runs in 1998 and became a god to high school athletes around the country. And then the steroid possibilities started sinking in a little. You had admitted using androstenedione, the steroidlike supplement now banned by baseball. Your younger brother, Jay, a bodybuilder you occasionally lived with, had once been hooked on steroids.

Then you walked away from the game in 2001, just as this steroid thing was starting to blow up. Suddenly, you didn't see anybody, talk to anybody, show up anywhere. It was as if you knew the other shoe was going to drop on your head. You were right.

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