RFK Stadium. Good Friday 1999.
In yet another pre-season exhibition game, the St. Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos are playing a game on Friday, and another one on Saturday this Easter Weekend. I'm hosting a show on WTEM from the first base side dugout during batting practice.
While I'm chatting with listeners, the Cardinals are taking batting practice. Mark McGwire - who has just hit 70 home runs to set a new - and brief - single season record, is in the cage. From my vantage point, I can't actually see him swing the bat, since the cage is surrounded by reporters. I can only see where the ball goes.
I'm momentarily stunned when a ball leaves McGwire's bat and eventually hits the edge of the roof in left field - fair by a couple of feet. Two pitches later, he hits almost exactly the same spot, and I nearly wet myself.
Both balls missed going completely out of RFK by no more than 8-10 inches.
Having seen dozens of Senators' games at RFK, I'd never seen anyone come remotely close to where McGwire's BP shots went. Frank Howard, who hit the ball as hard as anyone, never came within 75 feet of that area.
Still on the radio, I cued a commercial and ran up to the cage as McGwire was exiting. None of the reporters milling around had shown much reaction to what McGwire had done - until I mentioned that the last piece of leather to have touched that spot was a workman's glove in 1961.
Admittedly, I wasn't thinking "Hmmmm, must be steroids..." I chalked it up to a very strong hitter and a batting practice pitcher.
I was wrong, quite obviously.
McGwire's admission today that he was indeed chemically enhanced will produce mixed results. It's big news, yes, but nothing we hadn't all suspected anyway.
The payoff will be if other prominent players from that era step foward and do the same thing.