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Friday, Apr. 18, 2014

McGwire is a class act on today's field

Monday, November 19, 2001

The great blessing of time is that it smoothes out memory's rough spots. And so it is that in years to come, when Mark McGwire's name is mentioned in this town, the image that will come to mind will be a September night in 1998. There will be a heavy-caliber crack of ash on cowhide and the tail of a comet disappearing over Busch Stadium's left field fence.

We will see a huge man put down the boy in his arms and jog to the box seats, there to embrace the family of the man whose fabled record he had just broken. We will see him returning our salute and hear the roar. ...

He seemed like a visitor from another planet, and certainly his weird retirement-by-fax speaks to that. But it also speaks of something foreign to baseball, indeed, foreign to most of modern commerce -- integrity.

McGwire the Slugger (''I see it, I hit it.'') was always easier to understand than McGwire the Man, brooding and introspective. He cried at movies, made child abuse his special cause, considered his ex-wife and her husband among his best friends and once ditched a visit to baseball's Hall of Fame to search for a pizza in Cooperstown, N.Y. ...

He brooded through his last months, unable to get his batting average over .200, embarrassed with his own performance, his cherished 70-homer record under successful assault by the Giants' Barry Bonds. At midseason, he said he might quit and walk away from a two year, $30 million contract extension. On Sunday, he did just that, sending a fax to ESPN saying he wasn't worth the money he was being paid.

We won't see his likes again anytime soon. So to steal a line from Jack Buck on the night when Mr. McGwire tied Roger Maris' record: Pardon us while we stand and applaud.



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