The Truth Shall Set Mark McGwire Free

“Do you want to know the terrifying truth? Or do you want to see me sock a few dingers!?”                                                                                                         – Mark McGwire on The Simpsons, 1999

The quote above from Mark McGwire aired on The Simpsons episode entitled “Brother’s Little Helper” in which he distracts the townspeople as he enchants them with 500 foot home runs. The irony in it all is that McGwire was doing the exact same thing on the field in 1999 – he was distracting fans from the truth.

After the strike in 1994, baseball needed a hero. Mark McGwire answered that call and gave baseball fans what they so desperately needed in the post-strike era: hope.

Back then, everyone turned a blind eye as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa raced to erase history and set the new record for home runs in a single season. Hell, even the Commissioner turned the other cheek and let it happen. Bud Selig knew that the home run chase was going to save baseball and bring it back to the level it once was.


Subconsciously, maybe we all knew that something wasn’t quite right. The problem was that we were so enchanted by those 500 foot bombs, that at the time nobody cared whether it was real or not because it was entertaining to watch.

Everyone saw the success and accolades that McGwire and Sosa were receiving, so other players decided to jump on the bandwagon as well. I don’t claim to have any sources from within the clubhouse, but from what I’ve read from books like “Game of Shadows” and “Juiced”, steroid use in baseball was more rampant than we could have ever imagined.

Now, over 10 years later, McGwire and others from that era have been deemed outcasts in baseball and quite the opposite of the heroic forms they once represented.

I have a tough time deciding what’s wrong and what’s right here. Obviously, taking performance enhancing drugs to give you an edge over the competition is completely unfair. Those players were willing to do anything to be the best in baseball, even if that meant getting caught.

I don’t condone players using performance enhancing drugs, but if there were no repercussions, then what’s the harm? Players like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds reaped all the rewards that came with the success from their Cinderella season, but now their are paying the price.

After all the players who have finally come clean, the players who got caught, and the Mitchell Report, imagine how many players could have or could be currently taking performance enhancing drugs that we don’t even know about?

It’s crazy to think that’s even possible, but I’m sure in the past, people also thought that Mark McGwire on steroids was unfathomable.

Ultimately, Mark McGwire did the right thing by coming clean about his steroid use. Unfortunately, he did it about five years too late, but better late than never. It seems like a gesture of good will so the BBWAA might start to consider changing their vote to put McGwire on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

However, we have seen how long voters can hold a grudge for, and it might be too little too late for Mark McGwire to apologize.


When all is said and done though, baseball can finally start to turn the page on the steroid era, even if it’s a chapter with a big fat asterisk next to it.

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

6 thoughts on “The Truth Shall Set Mark McGwire Free

  • January 12, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Maybe that is all part of Tony LaRussa's plan to have McGwire on the 40-man roster if they're still contending – it'll by him another 20 years in the minds of the writers.

    But you're right – baseball had absolutely no steroid policy, so technically, no one was doing anything illegal. Morally wrong, sure, but not legally wrong.

    McGwire probably figured now was a safe time to officially reveal his steroid use – after being found out, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Jason Giambi haven't exactly faced a brutal backlash.

    Baseball still seems to want the steroid issue to fade away, but McGwire's just brought it back to the forefront, as will happen in a couple of years when Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are up for election to the Hall of Fame.

  • January 12, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Mike! I think Larussa's comment last week about possibly using McGwire as a pinch-hitter was a complete publicity stunt. He just got the ball rolling on all the Mark McGwire talk before yesterday's admission.

    I don't think he wanted to come clean, but was probably pressured by Cardinals management to come forward and come clean. They had to know the press would be on McGwire every day at batting practice asking about it anyway.

    Just as you mentioned, Bonds and Clemens are the final two players of that stature to admit to PED use. If they ever do come clean, baseball can start moving forward – but until then, there will be a dark cloud over that era.

  • January 12, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Man, that was a great episode of The Simpsons. Second only to "Homer at the Bat" in terms of baseball-related humor.

    "It's called playing the percentages, Strawberry! It's what smart managers do to win ballgames."

  • January 12, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    "dingers! dingers!"

    I could really care less about McGwire at this point. Let him go be a coach in St louis

  • January 12, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    At 15 and a half years old, all I wanted was to see McGwire sock a few dingers. Good times. Always loved Mac, steroids and all.

    I'm going to hit up The Simpsons softball song on YouTube now. It really never gets old.

    "We're talking softball …"

  • January 12, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Steve, "Homer at Bat" has been and always will be my favourite Simpsons episodes. It still stands up all these years later.

    Colt, I'm ready to move on too. It was a necessary for McGwire, but not let's get on with the show.

    eyeB, I have to give Big Mac credit because he brought a lot of fans back to baseball. I for one kind of dropped off after the baseball strike, so the home run chase restored my interest in the game.

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