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The McGwire family’s shortest book ever

In an odd twist, the wrong McGwire may turn out to be the family’s anti-steroid spokesman.

    Remember the old line of jokes revolving around the titles of “the shortest books ever written”? You know, like “Tony La Russa’s Favorite Recipes with Beef” or “Why MLB’s Television Blackout Rules are Fan-Friendly”?

    In this week when the news of Jay McGwire’s new book dominated sports page headlines and his older brother Mark called it “a sad day” for the McGwire clan of Pomona, California, I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘What if?’

    What if Big Mac sat down to write a book of his own? What might it be entitled?

    Continuing with the above theme of the shortest books ever, it could be:

    My Public Crusade Against Steroids,” by Mark McGwire

    In a Friday column at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, sports editor Rob Rains gives Jay McGwire credit for bringing the dangers of steroid use to the citizenry through his upcoming book, noting the younger brother’s religious awakening and hopes of a family reconciliation in the future.

    Rains recognizes the irony in the likelihood that Jay seems aligned to become the anti-steroid spokesman that Mark pledged he would be five years ago but never carried out. Further, Rains expresses disappointment in Big Mac’s “personal and private perspective” on the entire situation. A major opportunity is being missed.

    Until I see that Jay actually uses his 15 minutes of fame in a positive manner, I will reserve my judgment on his motives. After all, he could have limited his book to dealing with his own steroid demons, leaving Mark completely out of it. Of course, we all know that story most likely would never have seen the light of day. It seems to me that if Jay wants to get back on the same page with Mark, little brother could donate his book profits to anti-steroid initiatives.

    Mark McGwire, March, 17 2005 (AP Photo/Win McNamee)Pulling out his much-larger checkbook in support of the cause is something Big Mac has done. During the infamous 2005 Congressional hearings, Mark had no choice but to listen and squirm as Donald Hooton told the painful story of how steroids and depression led to the suicide of his teenage son. McGwire has since quietly made a series of monetary donations to Hooton’s anti-steroids foundation in apparently significant denominations.

    Yet McGwire did not honor another commitment he made while under oath on March 17, 2005 – to become a public spokesman against the use of steroids by youth. Perhaps the publicity-averse McGwire was badgered into agreeing and really didn’t mean what he said.

    No, his generous financial donations cannot be ignored. On the other hand, a cynic might wonder if this isn’t just another example of a wealthy individual using cash to make an uncomfortable subject go away.

    In recent interviews, McGwire has repeatedly stated his desire to “turn the page” and “move on from it.” He certainly is not required to do anything concerning steroid education with young Americans, having already made his meets-minimum, general-purpose apology.

    One thing we have seen since Big Mac’s return to the public eye is that he is not a polished speaker and certainly does appear to be shy. Speaking out on any subject may be difficult for him.

    Yet Big Mac grew his fame and his frame while making millions, buoyed by his use of those harmful substances whose names he conveniently asserts he can no longer remember. Couldn’t he do more in return than simply falling on his sword repeatedly? Instead, he seems content to merely fit in as a major league hitting coach and to try to sweep the broken parts of his past back under the rug as quickly and quietly as possible.

    The fact remains that McGwire could do much more – if only he wanted to.

    Since arriving in Florida this spring, Big Mac reiterated that he has no intention of becoming that national crusader against steroids, instead preferring to do his work behind closed doors.

    “Like I said, I do that stuff privately,” McGwire stated on February 18. “I have always done charitable stuff privately and talk to people privately. That is the thing about me. I have never wanted to do anything just because there is a camera in my face and say, ‘This is what I am doing.’”

    McGwire either doesn’t seem to understand or care that he could accomplish far more good for others by being in the public eye rather than out of it. He also doesn’t have a very good memory about this part of his past – or figures we don’t.

    Big Mac, the home run hero, got behind several causes back in the good old days, including fighting child abuse and bed wetting. These laudable efforts seemed to vanish from view when the going got tough.

    Quietly writing some checks, perhaps having some talks in private and turning the public page as quickly as possible is likely the path of least resistance, but is it the best one to follow? Does Mark really want little brother Jay to be the one to tell his story to the masses – the people who might actually take something positive from all this?

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    Brian Walton

    Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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