The Gospel Truth

A Big Mac Attack Part I | January 14, 2010

During the first time we visited England in 1986, we had just finished touring Windsor Castle.  It was around 2PM and we had nothing to eat since our prunes and cereal at 7AM.  The only available place for a quick-lunch was a McDonald’s or as our children used to say, “a Mickey D’s.”

I must confess that I was a cultural anomaly because in my 43 years I had never eaten in one before.  It was the best tasting, most delicious meal I consumed on the whole trip—let’s face it the Brits are not known for their culinary skills.  It was like being back in the states.

I guess you could say that this was my first really “Big Mac Attack.”

Well I have been listening and watching a new, more vituperative “Big Mac Attack” that is starting to frost my pancakes.

Mark McGwire, the retired home run hitter who gave so much to St. Louis is under an assault that maybe only George Bush or Sarah Palin could relate to.

Most of our local writers, commentators and pundits and many in national newspapers–the self-appointed “guardians of the game” have all chipped in with their two-cents worth of analysis…and quite frankly Scarlet, I don’t give a…. what they think.

The recent flap attendant to Big Mac’s “confession” has left me with more questions than I really need.

First all what exactly did he do wrong?  I remember when some snoopy reporter saw a bottle of “Andro,” (short for Androstenetrione) in his locker at Busch Stadium in plain sight.  Mac wasn’t trying to hide anything.

He has recently admitted to taking HGH—a human growth hormone, which as advertised on the NET seems to have some health benefits—so they say.  Was he taking anything else?  All I have read is STEROIDS lumped together as if they all did the same thing.

If I remember correctly baseball and our “brave keepers of the flame” did not say much if anything about drugs–outside of cocaine, marijuana and the like–but nothing about performance enhancement drugs in the early 1990s.  Does this include caffeine, vitamins and the ubiquitous “greenies?”

Could we not say that the media failed dismally to properly monitor the situation while players were corking their arms, instead of their bats?

Or just maybe they liked the ride McGwire et all gave the game that had declined in interest in 1994.

In 1986 when Cards manager Whitey Herzog had confiscated a boatload of Mets’ slugger Howard Johnson’s bats for analysis–yeah they cut them in pieces to see if he had “cheated,” I quipped that he corked his arms instead of his bats.  Little did I know I was a modern Nostradamus!

While I am on it, let me say that baseball players are ALWAYS looking for the edge that will help them compete better.   Cheating is the nature of the game.  That’s why they have umpires. The late Billy Martin once said, Cheating in baseball is just like hot dogs, French fries and cold Cokes.

Some critics have made a distinction between cheating on the field which can be detected and cheating behind the scenes which is presumably more difficult to detect.

Gaylord Perry, who threw a doctored ball, is in the Hall of Fame, as is the great New York manager John McGraw. But when Perry put his KY Jelly on the ball he did it on the mound before the umpires, opponents, and fans. So the argument goes he could have been caught.

When John McGraw was coaching at third and he held the runner’s belt to slow him down, McGraw risked getting caught in the act.  Actually one smart runner unhooked his belt and McGraw was left “holding the evidence.”

Is that a fair distinction–no cheating off the field?  Maybe so but when “Big Mac” was allegedly “doctoring” himself, to my mind, major league baseball did not have a coherent policy for pharmaceuticals–and that’s what we are talking about–not hard drugs per se.

These are not children like us, playing in the schoolyard where we judged our own plays, usually with honesty and fairness…because we were kids and no money was involved.

Big contracts and Big TV has changed all that.  These athletes are under great pressure to produce or take up coaching.

But leave it the press–they made a federal case out of his using this drug, which was not on any major league banned list at that time.

And why did he use it?  He said to promote healing.  When athletes work out using hundreds of pounds of weight in several repeats they literally tear hundreds of tiny capillaries that cause soreness the next day.  That might prevent them from a vigorous workout the next day.

If he was just using “Andro” or any other drug to speed his healing process, is that so wrong?

I know this for a fact.  When I work out with my wife’s “girlie man” 3lb weights, I can’t raise my arms above my head for three days.

I know the man did the work.  So what is the big deal that he used steroids for medicinal purposes?  I drink red wine for the same reason.

I have also taken steroids for an allergic reaction to some enzyme in a salad dressing.  And I still can’t hit the fastball or the curve— let alone all the “trick pitches” they use today.

Did I develop the physique of behemoth or the curves of a woman?

Besides the periodic shaving of my tongue, I have had no problem whatsoever.

I just wish someone had developed a mouthwash that acts like a depilatory.

A recent New York Times article reported that “Big Mac” seriously considered quitting baseball in the early 1990s because of a recurring heel problem.  So he was advised to take the steroids to literally heal his heel.  Why is that so hard to believe or accept?

If he had a doctor’s prescription would that have changed the public’s perception?

Whom would you more readily believe—“Big Mac” or that pariah, Jose Conseco (the author of Juiced) who wants to sell more books?  To me he’s Jim Bouton without the raw humor.

(Bouton wrote a revolutionary tell-all book about baseball, Ball Four in 1971 that charaterized his fellow Yankee teammates, Mickey Mantle as a voyeur and Yogi Berra as some kind of “naked ape.”)

I think it is patently unfair to judge “Big Mac” by what happened after he hung up his spikes. Does that justify steroids?  I really don’t know.  Have we had an open and honest discussion about the pros and cons of this issue?

Should healing drugs be the exception?  I think that depends on if it does any permanent damage to a player’s health.

Do steroids really enhance a player’s performance?  Many people seem to think so.  And if so how much?

Others say it just has a placebo effect—gives the player the feeling and confidence that he can give the ball a long ride.

Maybe taking steroids is a lot like smoking cigarettes and should be left up to a person’s free choice when it involves the “care of his own body?  Where have I heard that argument before?

To me this issue is a lot more complicated than the righteous indignation emanating from most pressrooms and media pulpits.

(Look for more discussion on this salient issue early next week

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2 Comments »

  1. Hey, Pop. I dig the blog and I am glad you have found a forum to post your views on various issues of importance to you.

    As for the “Big Mac Attack” piece, I think you raise some solid points. I agree in toto with the assertion that those in the media who “banged the drum [loudly]” for Big Mac, Sosa, et al. during the mid to late 1990’s as the increase in homers brought fans back into the seats seem to be the same ones who are now crying “banned from the game”, “asterisk” and “the preservation of the integrity of the game” from their perches high above in the pressbox.

    The interesting development in the McGwire admission is not that he came clean on using PED’s, but rather he made the suggestion that he would have put up incredible numbers had he never used steroids and HGH to help him heal quicker and faster — an assertion some interpret as apologizing with reservations.

    For had he taken the path of A-Rod, Petitte, Ankiel, et al., in which they admitted the usage of PED’s, apologized, and answered a few questions during a press conference, he would be in the “clear”, figuratively-speaking.

    Many journalists will now demand more than an apology and attrition from McGwire since he apologized with reservations, and I wonder if his broad shoulders of which Selig and many in the press helped create by looking the other way, will be able to sustain the new weight he will now surely endure.

    -MB

    Comment by Matt Borst — January 15, 2010 @ 9:27 pm

  2. Your article on McGuire exposed the truth, of the contempt the Liberal and Progressives have for McGuire and any American hero. McGuire’s accomplishments cannot be ignored.
    Medically or otherwise, I doubt if steroids do anything more than support the physical body protecting it from accidental damage during a game. There are many applications for steroids medically prescribed, that supports the human body.
    Today we are saddled with Liberal,Socialist Democrats, Progressive Activists, and many more idiots that will lie, cheat, steal, etc., to destroy the Freedom and Constitution of the US and enslave our Citizens thereby reflecting their templates, Stalin,Mao,Hitler and many more power hungry maniacs.
    Keep up the good work Bill, your columns open a large window letting us breath fresh air from the government press.

    Comment by James — January 16, 2010 @ 8:51 pm


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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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