I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the righteous indignation that erupted this week when St, Louis Cardinals’ skipper Tony LaRussa announced he would be back next year with a slight change in his coaching roster.
Yep, pitching coach Dave Duncan would be back, even after Cardinals management traded “little Dunk.” There was much speculation that he wouldn’t accept the job if Tony offered it. Hey, they’ve been together for decades, long before Dave’s kid got a major league contract.
No, the slight change is the batting coach. Hal McRae will no longer supervise and critique batting practice. Instead, Tony decided to hire a retired major league player that’s been out of baseball for 8 years! Some guy named McGwire. You may have heard of him.
Whether you currently are a Mark McGwire fan or not, you can’t dispute that he mobilized this area in a sea of red when he was racing towards breaking and setting anew the home run record. (It didn’t hurt that his closest competitor in the race was one of those hated Cubs).
I was there for 62 and for 70. Busch Stadium II and the town went wild for Mark McGwire when he set the new record (that would only last one season). Heck, they even named a stretch of I-70 in his honor.
What’s the next thing you remember about McGwire? That’s right, his evasive answers when asked to testify about steroid use before a Congressional hearing (and television cameras). I thought it especially interesting that he was called to testify before a group that never breaks any rules wink, wink.
Now Saint McGwire was sinner McGwire, a slight step above a gutter drunk that got his strength and courage from a bottle.
“Put an asterisk next to his name!”
“His record was accomplished (or not) because he used steroids!” We were ashamed.
So when LaRussa announced McGwire had accepted the position of batting coach, the talk shows lit up with indignant fans almost daring McGwire to come back to St. Louis and show his face. “We’ll stone him in the town square for his sins!”
Here’s my prediction: If Cardinal bats perform more consistently (and longer into October) next year, sinner McGwire will be forgiven and once again elevated to his saintly status.