Port-mortem on McGwire: Five more questions with Dale Tafoya

Faithful readers of this site will know that in December I reviewed a book about Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, Bash Brothers: A Legacy Subpoenaed. The book’s author, Dale Tafoya subsequently contacted me, and I interviewed him.  A few weeks after that, McGwire finally admitted to using steroids during his career.  Thereafter, his former trainer, Curt Wenzlaff made his own disclosures about the slugger.

Tafoya had interviewed Wenzlaff for his book, and I was curious about his take on everything that’s happened this month.  Thus, I followed up with Tafoya.

Baseball Past and Present: In writing Bash Brothers, did you foresee these last few weeks?  Was this what you were expecting?

Dale Tafoya: I wasn’t sure if McGwire was ever going to talk about the past and admit his steroid use, so I didn’t think his confession was inevitable. But I did know he wanted to return to the game and that his younger brother, Jay, is releasing a book, Mark AND Me, next month. Like Canseco, Jay is also supposedly going to describe how he injected steroids into Mark. So McGwire had many reasons to confess when he did. Personally, I was disappointed.  He may have been sincere, but it was a watered down confession that insulted our intelligence.

Firstly, he wants us to believe he turned to steroids to be healthy enough to play and that he could’ve hit 70 bomb in 1998 without them. Secondly, he wants us to believe that when players talked about steroids around the batting cage, he innocently walked away. So even though he confessed his steroids use, he never admitted they helped him perform better on the field.  He would have come across much better if he would have just exposed himself and stated the obvious: That they not only helped him recover from injury, but also helped him hit the ball further and break records. We, as fans, would’ve had more closure. Instead, his lukewarm confession left many of us disgusted.

BP&P: Will you be writing a postscript to your book?

DT: My publisher is talking about releasing a paperback version of Bash Brothers, and that’s when I’ll write a postscript. Stay tuned.

BP&P: One of your interview sources, Mark McGwire’s former trainer Curt Wenzlaff detailed the slugger’s steroid use for Outside the Lines.  In your book, he stopped short of saying he supplied McGwire with steroids.  What were the circumstances surrounding your interview with Wenzlaff a few years ago?  Do you regret not getting full disclosure at that time?

DT: I had two or three hour-long sessions with Wenzlaff. From the start, he always made it clear he wasn’t going confirm that he provided steroids to Canseco and McGwire unless they came clean.  So when Canseco described his own steroid use in his first book, Juiced, Wenzlaff went on record to confirm it. But when I contacted him in 2007, McGwire still hadn’t admitted it, so all he could tell me was he trained with him at a Southern California gym. But I respected his stance and was grateful he agreed to participate in my book. 

Interestingly, it was Reggie Jackson, when he played for the A’s in 1987, who introduced Wenzlaff to the Bash Brothers.  So I probed him about Jackson, but Wenzlaff  insisted Jackson never knew about his connection with steroids, claiming he only trained him at a gym in Walnut Creek, Calif.

I spent a lot of time trying to locate Wenzlaff, who was no stranger to media exposure. He had already been featured on ESPN and in the New York Times about his associations with Canseco and McGwire, so I realized he wasn’t going to give me any new, earth-shattering revelations into the Bash Brothers. But he did provide some interesting stuff on McGwire.  He described how much McGwire changed and how steroids could affect someone’s behavior and personality.  Based on my time with him, Wenzlaff was by no means an attention whore seeking to capitalize on this ongoing saga. In fact, I found him very private, humble and intelligent. If he were infatuated with the limelight, he would have wrote a tell-all book about the Bash Brothers years ago. He stuck to his guns and didn’t come out until each of them admitted it.

BP&P: Do you think McGwire told the whole truth?

DT: Well, I give him credit for disclosing his use, but I also believe Canseco injected him with the stuff; a claim he denies.  If there’s one thing clear about McGwire’s confession, it’s that he still refuses to dignify Canseco’s claims or make him look credible at all. He’s definitely not going to paint Canseco as a savior in this mess. But my question for McGwire is, “If Jose didn’t inject you with steroids, how did he know you used them?”

BP&P: Does McGwire have a better or worse case for the Hall of Fame now?

DT: I don’t think his admission swayed voters one way or the other. Personally, I don’t think he’ll garner of enough votes to enter the Hall of Fame and I don’t think he cares. The Veterans Committee, however, could end up getting him in.

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