Tonawanda News — It is impossible for any baseball fan to escape being a kid. The game, in its majestic simplicity, has a way of drawing everyone who loves it back to the day, the moment, when you first really found it.
For me, it was sitting in my childhood living room watching Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run, a decidedly unimpressive shot down the left field line that barely cleared the wall at the St. Louis Cardinals’ old Busch Stadium, on a muggy early September night in 1998.
I was 15 and that night I must have known I would watch and love this game — and that team — for the rest of my life.
I had already for years played Little League, watched Cardinals games, collected TOPS baseball cards — all the things boys do in the dog days of summer when there isn’t all that much more interesting to think about.
Now, 15 years later, I look back with equal parts nostalgia, sadness and embarrassment at the fabrication that night actually was.
McGwire was on the juice. So was Sammy Sosa, who darted in from his outfield position to congratulate McGwire (the Cardinals were playing the Cubs that night) on winning their historic race to overwrite Roger Maris in baseball’s annals as owner of the greatest home run hitting season of all time.
Like all baseball fans my age, steroids have provided the cynical and superficial backdrop to an adult’s intellectual interaction with the smartest game ever invented.
The dewy eyes of youthful admiration were long ago opened to the reality of baseball’s steroids era; almost all of the great players of my youth were cheating.
That’s what I was left thinking about when Major League Baseball handed down its shocking but hardly unexpected round of suspensions, its biggest effort to date to repair the game’s image and cast away the cheaters.