Of all the disgusting aspects of Mark McGwire’s “confession” that he took steroids as a player, the one that is most disgusting (in my eyes at least) was the moment after he had “broken” the late Roger Maris’ home-run record when he walked over towards the stands and engaged in a group hug with Roger Maris’ widow and her children while the fireworks exploded and the camera flashes went off and the crowd was roaring, cheering, crying, and expending itself in a frenzy because they believed they were witnessing baseball history being made.
But right now? In retrospect, it degenerates into a moment of infamy—an insult to the late Roger Maris’ memory and an even more contemptible insult to the Maris family.
The late Roger Maris suffered greatly to break Babe Ruth’s mark of sixty home runs in a single season. He had to deal with a hyper-aggressive (and soon to become hostile) media blitz; a non-existent media contrived “feud” with teammate Mickey Mantle; the refusal of New York Yankees management to set ground rules for media access for Maris (in McGwire’s case there were definite ground rules in dealing with him); the hostility of certain fans who resented the idea of Maris breaking Ruth’s record (just as there was hostility towards Hank Aaron when he broke Ruth’s career record); and, of course, the bloody asterisk which dogged him to the day he died.
When Maris’ record was “broken” by McGwire we thought at the time that it was done with great respect and great dignity.
Now we know differently. Now, with McGwire’s “confession”, we know that it was all a lie; that McGwire was thumbing his nose not only towards baseball fans everywhere but at the Maris family and the late Roger Maris as well. It’s tragic that when Maris’ record was broken it was done with such callous cruelty and such a blatant, calculated disregard for fair play and honesty.
Roger Maris was a solid baseball player who played the game with great heart and integrity. He was a winner, a three-time World Series champion, and a team player. He deserved better than this. He broke Ruth’s record in a maelstrom of controversy. His record was “broken” in a covert web of lies and deception.
In a sense it’s good he was not alive to see McGwire’s disgusting, shameful, despicable little charade.
When the steroid scandal broke years ago, Roger Maris Junior made a statement to the effect that if there was proof that Mark McGwire was on steroids when he broke his late father’s record that an asterisk should be placed upon the mark or else be disallowed. I concur with Roger Junior’s desire. It will never happen though but I believe in the hearts and minds of millions of baseball fans a symbolic asterisk has already been entered into the record books.