As good a reason to have a blog as any

I just wanted a chance to write regularly.

When I was out with that group of people at Denny’s on that Friday early last year, I had no idea that the man sitting across from me had a son connected with this site, no idea that it would lead me to where I am now.

I had my second job interview in as many days today, my second straight interview where somebody had seen my resume posted online, clicked on the link for here and then sent me a nice email to see about meeting.  This time, it was for a sales position with a local State Farm office, another solid opportunity, not one of those “Do our payroll from home!” or “Free your mind with multi-level marketing!” scams that clutter my Inbox after every time I post a resume online.  Kids, this blogging business can lead to good things.

The State Farm agent was running late to our meeting today, so I had some time to talk with the office manager.  We got to chatting about my blog, and I mentioned that if you do a Google search on “best players not in hall of fame,” a post I wrote last May comes up on the first page of search results (as the second item from the top, better than offerings from NFL.com or ESPN— don’t ask me how this works.)  He then turned to a computer next to him, executed this search and saw for himself.

It was a pretty cool moment in my job interview history, right up there with the time I quoted a scene from Office Space to a potential employer, that clip where the sad-sack middle manager about to be laid off tells the consultants ruthlessly interviewing him, “God damnit, I have people skills!  Can’t you understand?” Surprisingly, I got hired that time.  No word yet on today, though I’m hopeful.

A note on walk-up music

I have been blasting an old Pearl Jam tape while driving around in my car lately.  My IPod broke a few months ago, I don’t have a CD player, and I get tired of listening to the radio after so long, as good as the selection generally is in the Bay Area.  Thus, I wind up listening to old tapes, like the Pearl Jam album, Vs., which I got when I was about 10.  For some reason, it has had phenomenal replay value for me, and if I were a baseball player, I think my walk-up music might be the album’s song, “Dissident.”

Walk-up music is the song that’s played during the six or eight seconds a player is striding to the plate, stepping in, and taking a few practice hacks.  I’ll listen to a song and find myself wondering if it would make good walk-up music.  The trick is to find something that starts right away, no “Funeral for a Friend” by Elton John, with its meandering, three-and-a-half-minute intro (though one of the stations around here likes to play that song in all its 11-minute glory.)

It’s good to find something intense, something incendiary, something that could play during that scene in Braveheart where Mel Gibson rides up in blue face paint and rallies the Scottish to kick the shit out of the British.  The song is all about helping a player get pumped up.  If it sounds like something that could be played in a biker bar or during an arm wrestling competition, or both, it’s probably good.

Some players find something funny, like former Giants catcher Steve Decker who I once heard use the “Winkie Chant” from The Wizard of Oz at a Sacramento River Cats game (that’s the one that sounds like “Oh e oh, e oh oh.”)  There’s also the unintentionally funny, like former major league outfielder Tony Tarasco who once had an explicit song by Jay-Z played.

Closers probably have it best.  Their songs get played while they walk in from the bullpen and warm up.  All the best closers have songs that define them: “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC for Eric Gagne, when he was in his prime with the Dodgers; “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys for Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon; “Wild Thing” by The Troggs for Mitch Williams (though that sadly became all too true when his lack of control derailed his big league career.)

I can picture “Dissident” booming over some stadium’s loudspeakers while I warm up.  “Womack’s really bringing it tonight,” the coaches would tell each other while my fast balls sizzled in, smoke rising from the catcher’s glove, Eddie Vedder’s crooning and the pounding bass notes in the background (it goes without saying, I quit Little League when I was 11 and my fastball topped out at 40 miles per hour.)

What’s your walk-up song?

Three other posts worth reading:

10 baseball players who didn’t do steroids

Got $1000? Jose Canseco will spend a day with you

A former baseball owner dies at 100 and leaves a warehouse of old memorabilia

Potential employers: Do they like the Giants or the Dodgers?

I interviewed this morning for a copy writing position with CafePress, a web company in San Mateo, and baseball came up in conversation with my potential employers.

I met first with the head recruiter, and we hit it off.  Besides going to the same college, I learned we are both fans of the San Francisco Giants.  I mentioned having the opportunity to interview Will Clark next month, and we commiserated about how Giants general manager Brian Sabean consistently overpays for aging players.  Sabean had the right approach in the late Nineties, when he used low-priced veteran acquisitions like Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow and Darryl Hamilton, to join Barry Bonds and create a contender; in recent years, however, Sabean has done things like give Barry Zito $50 million more than any other team would’ve paid.  It’s not always been easy to watch.

After meeting with the recruiter, I met with the head of the online acquisition.  Turns out he’s a Dodger fan.  I said, “I’m sorry,” as I like to joke with Laker fans or anyone who went to a rival high school than me.  My interviewer and I laughed a little, and I had to agree with his assertion that the Giants are always about one big bat away from being a contender, as they already have a World Series-caliber pitching staff.  I told him how much I liked Vin Scully’s call of Kirk Gibson’s winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  I found a stream of it on YouTube recently and have watched it a few times.  That was poetry, regardless of whose side you’re on.

Anyhow, I’m back from the interview now, and they just emailed me an application to fill out and fax over.  Thus, I am off now to FedEx Office (I still want to call it Kinko’s) and am crossing my fingers.

Baseball history and social media, together at last

I took the plunge today and finally signed up for a Twitter account.  I first heard of Twitter a couple years ago and was cool to the idea for a long time.  I heard it’s basically a site comprised solely of Facebook status reports, and I just can’t see the attraction of that.  I don’t know if a lot of people can; I heard several months ago, at least, that Twitter loses something like 60% of its users after the first month.

Still, social media is a great way to promote a blog, and since Twitter is free, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.  Thus, I spent five minutes setting up my account a little while ago and made a debut tweet:

Just joined Twitter to promote my web site, http://baseballpastandpresent.com/ Check me out!

Appropriately, the tweet right before my own on my homepage was from Jose Canseco.  He wrote:

“How would i go about getting more followers? I see a lot of my peers have tons! Let’s try and get to 500,000.”

Suffice it to say, I’m one of those following Canseco.

The pitfalls of being broke

Back in November I wrote a post here about a Hitters Hall of Fame at the Ted Williams Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.  For that piece, I interviewed the executive director for the museum, David McCarthy.  After I published my post, McCarthy emailed me feedback and invited me to the museum’s annual induction dinner, to be held February 13.  Having just quit my job at the time, I told McCarthy I would have to get back to him and figured I wouldn’t be able to go.  It bummed me out, but that’s part of being an adult.

However, I heard that airline companies do deals after the first of the year, so I checked Travelocity a few weeks ago and saw airfare-plus-hotel packages starting at a few hundred bucks.  After doing some budgeting, I thought I could afford the trip and called McCarthy to RSVP.  Subsequently, though, I remembered a $300 check I wrote in December and realized I probably wouldn’t be able to go after all.  I’m holding out hope for a windfall; if anyone has any ideas, I’m game.

This story gets better.  When I called McCarthy to RSVP, the museum had announced Dave Dravecky would be added to a Pitcher’s Wall of Achievement.  However, an inductee for the Hitters Hall of Fame hadn’t been decided.  I suggested Mark McGwire, who hit 583 home runs and has a better career on-base percentage than Hank Aaron, Willie Mays or Al Kaline.  This was about a week before McGwire admitted he used steroids during his career.  McCarthy liked my suggestion, saying Ted Williams thought highly of McGwire.

After McGwire dropped his bombshell, though, I wondered if the museum would still honor him.  I checked the museum’s web site last night and learned it won’t this year. Instead, the inductees into the Hitters Hall of Fame will be Darryl Strawberry and my all-time favorite player, Will Clark.  I’m 26 and grew up in Northern California, coming of age when the first baseman nicknamed “The Thrill” starred for my San Francisco Giants.  Even just thinking of him now puts a smile on my face.

One of the stipulations for any player to be inducted into the museum is that he attend the awards dinner.  When I called to RSVP, I asked McCarthy if I would be able to interview Dravecky and he said yes.  Thus, I’m reasonably sure that if I went to this event, I would get to interview Clark, probably Strawberry too.  I contemplated asking my parents for the money and called a man I go to for advice.  He stressed the importance of being self-supporting and I really can’t argue with him.  I know the right thing to do here.

Thus, I left McCarthy a voice mail today, updating him on the situation and asking if I could do a phone interview with Clark and Strawberry if I can’t make the dinner.  Ideally, I’ll be able to attend.  Either way, though, this seems like an event worth writing about and even getting to talk to Clark over the phone would be, at the risk of sounding cheesy, a thrill.

(Postscript: McCarthy called me back a couple hours after I first posted this.  He said he’d tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with McGwire through the Cardinals organization.  McCarthy said he would still like to induct McGwire into the Hitters Hall of Fame and discussed maybe doing so next year.  McCarthy also said he’d do what he could about ensuring a phone interview for me with Clark and said I could still come to the event, even with last-minute notice.  Cool guy.)

The best baseball player not in the Hall of Fame

I was combing the list of all-time best career batting averages on Baseball Reference when I noticed an unfamiliar name: Riggs Stephenson.  I had come upon a few unknowns already and saw they were men who’d played mostly before the modern era, a time I don’t take too seriously in baseball’s history.  However, a glance at Stephenson’s page revealed that he played from 1921 to 1934 with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs.  The sponsor ad on his page proclaimed, “The greatest baseball player who is NOT in the Hall of Fame!”

I don’t know if I would go that far.  If we are talking every single player in baseball history, the best man not in the Hall of Fame is Pete Rose.  The second best is Joe Jackson.  However, the equation changes if we consider that Rose and Jackson were both banished from the game for sports betting and cannot be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Among eligible players not yet in Cooperstown, Stephenson might well be the best.  He’s definitely the best player I had never heard of.  (This is why he’s not among “The 10 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame.”)

Stephenson’s credentials include a .336 lifetime batting average, 22nd all-time, better than Al Simmons, Honus Wagner or Stan Musial.  Not an everyday player until after he was traded to the Cubs in 1926 at age 28, Stephenson hit his prime thereafter, averaging .346 from 1926 to 1930.  His best year came in 1929, when he hit .362 with 17 homers and 110 runs batted in, helping the Cubs to the World Series, which they lost 4-1 to the Philadelphia Athletics.

The big knock against Stephenson could be the shortness of his career.  He played at least parts of fourteen seasons but only had four years with at least 500 plate appearances (though he had nine years with at least 300.)  Overall, he had just 1,515 hits in 4,508 at bats.  Stephenson also played in the greatest age for hitters in baseball history, aside perhaps from the Steroid Era.  I could have hit .300 in 1930.

Still, it’s a little surprising that Stephenson never got more than 1.5% of the Hall of Fame vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America, dropping off the ballot after his fourth try in 1962.  He certainly appears better, on paper, than a lot of the players in Cooperstown now.  As he died in 1985, at 87, he wouldn’t make a bad posthumous pick for the Veterans Committee.

The 10 best Veterans Committee selections for the Hall of Fame

There are two ways to get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  The first is to receive at least 75% of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America.  Players get a maximum of 15 years on the ballot before they’re no longer eligible, and even with that wide of a margin, getting in is sometimes no easy feat.  Joe DiMaggio needed three years to garner enough votes; 300-game winners Don Sutton and Phil Niekro each needed five.  And Bert Blyleven has just two tries remaining.

But those who miss the vote have a wide net to catch them:  The Veterans Committee.

I’ve said it before on this site, but it bears repeating.  Late, great Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray once wrote, “To get into the Baseball Writers’ wing of the Hall of Fame, you better be Babe Ruth.  Or better.  To get in the veterans’ wing, all you have to be is a crony.”

It seems like if the Veterans wing of the Hall of Fame were to disappear tomorrow, there wouldn’t be a huge number of worthy players left out of Cooperstown.  If the Writers wing is home to guys like DiMaggio, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, the Veterans section champions the Joe Gordons and Jim Bunnings of the sport– good players, sure, maybe nice guys too.  Gordon is even from my hometown of Sacramento.  But to say that he, Bunning and others belong in the same Hall of Fame as some of the game’s immortals makes it seem like less of a Hall of Fame to me.

The official task for the committee is to find players overlooked by the writers, and definitely, it has succeeded admirably there at times.  Especially in the early years of the Hall of Fame, when selecting from a huge number of players was a daunting task, the committee helped find forgotten players.

Here are the ten best players selected by the Veterans Committee:

1. Sam Crawford (1957): Arguably the best player the committee has put in the Hall of Fame.  In a career that took place entirely in the Deadball Era, Crawford had 2,961 hits, a .309 lifetime batting average and an all-time best 309 triples.

2. Tim Keefe (1964): Kind of surprising it took 25 years after the museum opened for Keefe to be inducted, as he won 342 games during his career.  He won 30 or more games six consecutive years, including 42 in 1886.

3. Sam Rice (1963): A similar player to Crawford.  In fact, I get the two players mixed up sometimes.  They both were speedy outfielders from the early part of the 20th Century with close to 3,000 hits and a batting average north of .300.  Rice is interesting in the sense that he had his first full season at age 27, following which he served in World War I. His career didn’t get going in earnest until he was 29.  Had he started sooner, he may well have gotten something close to 4,000 hits.

4. Ernie Lombardi (1986): Arguably the best hitting catcher of all-time, with two batting titles, though he had a hard time staying healthy and didn’t make the Hall of Fame in his lifetime.  There was a myth about him that he was bitter about it.

5. Addie Joss (1978): A latter-day, right-handed version of Sandy Koufax, Joss died at 31 in 1911.  As it stands, he finished 160-89 with a 1.89 career ERA.

6. Heinie Manush (1964): Hit .330 lifetime with 2,524 career hits, holding his own with contemporaries of his era like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Al Simmons.

7. Chief Bender (1953): Went 212-127 with a 2.46 ERA in his career.  Interestingly, he had a year, 1913, where he won 21 games and also had 13 saves.

8. Johnny Mize (1981): Not a terribly different player than Hank Greenberg, though it took Mize much longer after his career ended to make the Hall of Fame.  Like Greenberg, Mize rose to stardom in the 1930s and had his career interrupted by World War II.  Like Greenberg, Mize would probably have finished with close to 500 home runs if not for his service.

9. Stan Coveleski (1969): Went 215-142 with a 2.89 ERA lifetime.  Over the second half of his career when hitters ruled, beginning in 1921, he won at least 20 games twice.

10. Orlando Cepeda (1999): One of the few picks the committee has gotten right in recent years, this honored Cepeda, whose bid was delayed several years by drug problems.  Interestingly, the same thing is happening to Dave Parker right now, maybe Keith Hernandez too.

A purchase at the dollar store

About a year ago, my mom gave me a nice, scented candle inside of a glass jar, and it seemed a shame to waste the excess wax after the wick burned out the first time.  As a result, every month or two, I buy a cheap candle at the dollar store and put it inside the jar.  Then, I melt down the leftover wax from before on my stove and pour it inside the jar to seal in the new candle.  Yeah, I know, I’m probably the only sportswriter who recycles wax from scented candles.

Anyhow, with some time to kill today, I made a trip over to the dollar store that’s walking distance from my apartment.  Initially, I just planned to buy the candle, but when I was at the checkout stand, I saw amidst the display of sports trading cards, a brand that read “Historic Vintage Collection” with the subhead, “40 Years of Baseball Trading Cards.”  The front of each pack had a star, with text over it that read, “Historic Star Card in Every Pack.” This caught my interest.

As a child, I used to collect baseball cards voraciously, and I started collecting older ones after my aunt bought me cards for Bob Gibson and Tony Oliva when I was about eight.  In time, I had cards as far back as the 1940s and even had a dog-eared Willie Mays from 1969 that I got for $10.  I also had cards for Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Juan Marichal, among others.  At one point, I had as many as 5,000 sports cards.  Most have long since been gotten rid of, though I still have the old cards, in a binder at my parent’s house in Sacramento.

For whatever reason,  I’ve always had a passion for history and love any type of primary source material.  I also used to collect old Sports Illustrated issues as a kid.  In more recent years, I’ve branched into finding old books.  I have a decent library for both baseball and sports writing, and a lot of the stuff I like is no longer in print.  Thus, I find cool books every now and again, like a 1944 sports writing collection I located in a used bookstore in Sacramento a few years ago.  My copy includes a handwritten note, dated December 10, 1944:

To Eddie:

The Page 55 Contributor would have you (and all others who might glance here) that without your aid, early and late, I would never have come this far– might even have been left at the post, or have been thrown out at  first.

Anyhow, you’re one brother in a whole country.

Warren

I checked after reading this and determined the message was written by Warren Brown, a longtime Chicago sportswriter whose contribution in the book is a story about boxer Jack Dempsey from 1923.

Anyhow, while at the dollar store today, I wondered if the packs of old cards just contained reprints, which is lame, but for a dollar, I figured it couldn’t hurt to see what was inside.  I made the purchase, walked home and opened the pack.  Among the 15 cards were a 1984 Willie McGee and 1994 cards of Sammy Sosa and Juan Gonzalez.  They all appear to be originals, from the Eighties and Nineties.  I probably had the majority of them as a kid and for all I know, may have been holding the same cards from 15 to 20 years before.  Still, it was nice to get a little nostalgia.

Who to trust, Canseco or McGwire?

Amid the hoopla surrounding Mark McGwire admitting he used steroids, an exchange he had with Bob Costas got my attention.  In an interview on MLB Network on Monday, Costas read excerpts from Jose Canseco’s autobiography, Juiced, which claimed he personally injected McGwire.

“‘Right before a game, we would load up our syringes and inject ourselves’,” Costas read, quoting the book.

“There’s absolutely no truth to that whatsoever,” McGwire responded immediately, not breaking eye contact besides to blink once.

“That’s not true?” Costas said.

“Absolutely not,” McGwire said.

“Why do you think Jose would say that?” Costas said.

“He had to sell a book,” McGwire said.

“So that didn’t happen, in the clubhouse?” Costas said

“Absolutely not,” McGwire said.  “I couldn’t be more adamant about that.”

Canseco, for his part, went on sports talk radio today, insisting he told the truth.  He had defended his former teammate one day prior.  As reprinted in the Oakland Tribune, where I read it, Canseco told Sirius XM Radio on Monday, “Mark, steroids or not, was one of the greatest nicest guys you could possibly meet.  People make a mistake and say, ‘Well, he used steroids.  He’s a bad guy.  He’s evil.  He’s not worthy.’  I extremely regret telling the truth.  I extremely regret writing that book.  This thing has taken on a life of it’s own, and it’s far from over, guys.”

But on Tuesday, following the interview with Costas, Canseco called McGwire a liar.

“I’m tired of justifying what I’ve said,” Canseco said. “I’ve polygraphed, I’ve proven that I’m 100 percent accurate. I never exaggerated. I told it the way it actually happened. I’m the only one who has told it the way it actually happened. Major League Baseball is still trying to defend itself. It’s strange. All I have is the truth, and I’ve proven that.”

What’s apparent here is one of these men is lying.  I’m not sure who I believe.  Both players lied or gave misleading statements during their careers.  McGwire vigorously denied using steroids in a Sports Illustrated cover story in 1998, while Canseco released a tutorial while playing for the A’s that said steroid use would be unwise because it would hinder quick twitch muscles.  He also claimed the following, in Juiced:

I remember one day during 2001 spring training, when I was with the Anaheim Angels in a game against the Seattle Mariners, Bret Boone’s new team. I hit a double, and when I got out there to second base I got a good look at Boone. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was enormous. “Oh my God,” I said to him. “What have you been doing?”

“Shhh,” he said. “Don’t tell anybody.”

As reported by ESPN in 2005, the Mariners and Angels played five games that spring, and Canseco and Boone never encountered one another on the basepaths.

There’s also a part of me that feels Canseco knew, leading up to Juiced, that guys like McGwire, Boone and Jason Giambi were using steroids.  It had to be apparent.  I also think Canseco knew baseball would be unwilling to talk about steroids, providing him a great money-making opportunity.  So a part of me thinks he wrote about the obvious users and took creative liberties about their personal interactions where he had to.

I doubt Canseco called out anyone who wasn’t using, but it seems unlikely he and McGwire injected together at the ballpark.  McGwire and Canseco ran in different circles and had vastly different personalities, McGwire shy and reserved, Canseco charming and outgoing.  The Bash Brothers image about them was largely a marketing creation, just like the M&M image was for Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.  It seems more likely to me McGwire did steroids with his brother, a professional bodybuilder who lived with him.

This doesn’t mean Canseco has to fear a libel suit from McGwire.  Proving libel is not simply a matter of believing a person is lying.  There are two different thresholds for proof, depending on whether a private or public individual is claiming libel.  If a publication makes an error about a private individual, that individual need only prove negligence for a civil judgment.  McGwire is a public individual, though, so he would have to prove malice, that Canseco knew he was lying when he made his claims.  Proving that is typically difficult, if not impossible.  It’s why Barry Bonds may never do a day in jail.

What McGwire could prove, if he wanted to, is that Canseco’s book was devastating to his image.  But I doubt McGwire would go to those lengths, private as he is.

Seeing McGwire through Rose-colored glasses

I emailed one of the guys that oversees this site today, curious what he thought of my post about Mark McGwire’s admission of using steroids.  He liked what I wrote and suggested I write about how upset Pete Rose would be.

“You know he is going to come out and say you banned me but hired a cheater that lied for 10 years,” my friend said.

I had to concur about baseball’s double standards. Rose got banned in 1989 for betting on baseball, while Ty Cobb remains in the Hall of Fame, despite the fact he told his biographer late in life that he killed a man in the street in 1912.  And Cobb is far from the only unsavory character in Cooperstown.  Longtime baseball writer Fred Lieb wrote in his memoir, Baseball As I Have Known It, that Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker and Gabby Hartnett told him they were members of the Ku Klux Klan (Lieb figured Cobb a member as well–what didn’t that guy do?) I could list dozens of personally flawed players if I wanted to.  Nobody’s perfect, really.

I’m not sure if I quite see Rose’s cheating as being on par with McGwire’s cheating.  No one ever said Rose hit a home run or won a game by gambling on it.  But I thought of another connection between the two men.

In a 1990 postscript to his seminal bestseller and playing diary of the 1969 season, Ball Four, Jim Bouton wrote about Rose.  Bouton called the all-time hit leader’s banishment from the game “cruel and unusual punishment.”  He declared baseball’s rule against gambling “an anachronism,” a response to the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.

Bouton continued:

There’s no evidence that Pete Rose ever “threw” a ballgame.  But it is pretty clear that he’s a compulsive gambler, even though he denies it.  Today we know that compulsive gambling is an addiction, just like alcohol or drug addiction, and denial is part of the illness.  Accordingly, Rose should have been treated the same as baseball’s drug users; a one-year suspension and rehabilitation with Gamblers Anonymous.

In the wake of McGwire’s announcement today, many people around the blogosphere have been unloading on the former Cardinal slugger, including yours truly.  I stand by the statements I made earlier.  It is reprehensible that McGwire lied for so many years, however nice his belated honesty is.  But I can’t condemn him.  I might not support letting him in the Hall of Fame, at least just yet, but I also don’t support continuing to ostracize him from the game.

Addiction is considered by many a disease.  And steroids can be classed with narcotics like cocaine and marijuana as a drug of abuse.  Any recovering alcoholic who used steroids, except under advice of a doctor, would need to reset their sobriety date.  There are treatment programs for steroid abuse, just as there are for drugs, alcohol or compulsive spending.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that every baseball player who ever touched steroids is a drug addict.  I’ve heard only one in six people who use drugs typically become addicted.  Some people can take them or leave them.  But McGwire said he used steroids for 10 years.  That goes far beyond the experimental stage.

Stanton Peele, a psychologist who rejects the disease model of addiction writes on his website:

Simply discovering that a drug, or alcohol, or an activity accomplishes something for a person who has emotional problems or a particularly susceptible personality does not mean that this individual will be addicted. Indeed, most people in any such category are not addicts or alcoholics. Addicts must indulge in their addictions with sufficient abandon to achieve the addicted state. In doing so, they place less value on social proprieties or on their health or on their families and other considerations that normally hold people’s behavior in check.

The wild card in all this is that McGwire told Bob Costas he only used steroids for health reasons, not to gain strength and that he’d been given a gift to hit home runs.  That logic seems dubious, since steroids have been argued to help lead to injury.  Any health benefit would only come in the short term, if at all.

Whatever the case may be, McGwire sounds like a sick man.  When I look back on the Steroid Era for baseball, I see a lot of sick men.