Hank Aaron on Mark McGwire: It’s time for forgiveness

Hank Aaron signs baseball at Braves camp Monday. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Hank Aaron signs autographs at Braves camp Monday. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Hank Aaron was in Lake Buena Vista on Monday. He met with reporters and spoke about several topics, but his thoughts on Mark McGwire had particular resonance. Here, as reported by the Associated Press, were Aaron’s comments:

“I think baseball is cleaning up its act a little bit, I really do. I’ve said this and I’ll say it again, over and over again, this is the most forgiving country in the world. If you come through and tell the truth, then you’re going to be forgiven. The kid with the Yankees, [Andy] Pettitte, came out and it was a week of news and after that it was over.

“We all make mistakes. If they ever did enhancing drugs, whatever they did, they should come clean and be able to sleep at night.”

Speaking specifically of McGwire, who last fall admitted his use of performance-enhancing drugs:

“I would have loved to have seen him do it a long time ago, but since he did it, I think that he himself will tell you right now he’s able to sleep at night and he’s able to look at his teammates. He’s done everything that he can do.”

There are those, many of them in the media, who have criticized the Cardinals’ hiring of McGwire as their hitting coach. (Bobby Valentine, who’s now one of the voices on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” is particularly strident on this issue.) Their point being: So long as McGwire is in full view wearing a baseball uniform, the issue will never go away.

But Valentine and his ilk have it wrong, and the Hammer has it right: Americans are world champions at forgiveness. Fessing up and saying he’s sorry will ultimately work for McGwire, same as it will for Tiger Woods. (Different transgression, I know.) And the worst thing baseball could do would be to banish McGwire and try to pretend the whole Steroids Era never happened.

Baseball got into its mess by trying to pretend nothing rotten was happening. Baseball was good at pretending. But now it knows better, and so do we. There’s no sense in trying to distance itself. Far better to acknowledge the past, however tainted. Far better to do as Aaron suggests and say, “We all make mistakes.”

The action plan for baseball regarding steroids should be: Blanket amnesty for everyone. Say you did it, say you’re sorry and move on.

54 comments Add your comment

todd grantham

February 22nd, 2010
11:05 pm

todd grantham

February 22nd, 2010
11:07 pm

I would agree. The Hammer is correct. Casting stones and all that stuff, you know?

Mark Bradley

February 22nd, 2010
11:08 pm

Coach Grantham slides home ahead of the field, so to speak. Kudos, CTG.

todd grantham

February 22nd, 2010
11:08 pm

I guess everyone else has gone to bed.

Mark Bradley

February 22nd, 2010
11:09 pm

And let’s note Todd Grantham’s strategy: A “first” post at 11:05 with a substantive comment at 11:07.

todd grantham

February 22nd, 2010
11:10 pm

Yes, I am rather a fine example of a blogger.

Mark Bradley

February 22nd, 2010
11:11 pm

Among the finest, I’d allow.

todd grantham

February 22nd, 2010
11:12 pm

Mark, did you ever see Henry play in person? i got to see him in ATL in a double header, probably about 1970. He played first base rather than outfield as i recall.

todd grantham

February 22nd, 2010
11:15 pm

and that’s all i really remember about that game was watching number 44 the whole time. but i can tell my future grandchildren i saw the greatest play in person.

Mark Bradley

February 22nd, 2010
11:22 pm

I got his autograph at Crosley Field in 1969.

JEB

February 22nd, 2010
11:23 pm

Gotta say AMEN!
The MLB has a lot to blame for the steroid situation.
I do believe a lot of people knew what was going on and turned their head in a different direction.
It was good for the popularity of the game and it was good for their pockets.
Watched a replay game on Sunday on MLB – 1989 playoff game between Oakland & Blue Jays.
Canseco hit a TOWERING shot into the upper part of the upper left field deck (Toronto’s stadioum) and everyone stood watching (anoouncers included) with their jaws on the ground. Bob Costas was announcing the game and noted “How can anyone hit a baseball like that??”
It was unique to watch and listen to on this side of that era.

todd grantham

February 22nd, 2010
11:27 pm

did you manage to keep up with it?

Mark Bradley

February 22nd, 2010
11:29 pm

Oh, sure. It’s on a shelf.

Mark Bradley

February 22nd, 2010
11:30 pm

I remember that home run, JEB. Amazing distance.

bulldog bubba

February 22nd, 2010
11:34 pm

Hank and Willie were the best back in the day.You know that in this day and time most people that want to chastise and critize wrongdoer’s usually have a skeleton in their closet they want to keep there.McGwire and others gave us a good show when they played ball and thats what we want when we watch the game.If it had been revealed at the time they had played then the allegations we lay on them now then correction could have taken place. Lets quit talking about the past and PLAY BALL!!!!!!!

Mark Bradley

February 22nd, 2010
11:36 pm

I saw both Aaron and Mays in person. But I have to admit Roberto Clemente was my favorite of the NL outfielders.

cricket

February 22nd, 2010
11:43 pm

Respect and love Aaron to death, but sorry, can’t forgive cheater no matter how nice he is. Frankly, I prefer low-life cheaters like Canseco – at least they don’t carry on the charade too long and you know where you stand with them.

bulldog bubba

February 22nd, 2010
11:44 pm

I remember watching Clemente several times when all we had was NBC GAME OF THE WEEK.It was sad to lose a great player like that.I believe he was taking relief to his native people and died in a plane crash.It shows there are far more good things ballplayers do than bad.

mmgtfan

February 22nd, 2010
11:44 pm

Goodness CTG was fast on that one.

MitchC

February 22nd, 2010
11:56 pm

Mark, I respect Hank maybe more than anyone in the game. (Oh, and by the way, I met Mays once in Atlantic City when he was a greeter for a hotel my parents were staying at. Nice guy). Now, to what Hank said.

I’m a big believer in forgiveness. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be talking to some pretty important people in my own life, nor would I have watched baseball again after the 94 strike. I did both, but that being said..

McGwire has .. 583 homers I believe. The big question is: How many of them were hit honestly, without performance enhancing drugs? When it comes time for his election to the Hall, do we just overlook Mac, Sosa, Bonds, and everyone else who may have done steroids? Does “I’m sorry” cut it, when you’ve cheated to perform better at your job, especially one you’re paid millions of dollars a year for?

While it would seem harsh to keep all players who took performance enhancers out of the Hall, maybe an example has to be made. Hank, Ruth, Mays, Mantle, etc, all the big greats, hit every single one of their homers without that junk.

Again, I realize my stance is very harsh. I just have to wonder what example it sets for children who idolized guys like McGwire. What example does he set, and is saying “I’m sorry” really enough?

MitchC

February 22nd, 2010
11:59 pm

By the way, I also want to make clear that I’m not accusing Bonds or Sosa of taking steroids. All I’m saying is look at all the talk about the big home run hitters of recent years, who accumulated the major homer totals. McGwire admitted what he did, and, IF any of the others did, in fact, do it, does saying I’m sorry just erase what they did, that’s my point.

Gravy Train

February 23rd, 2010
12:05 am

Hank, as always, is a class act. Still makes me angry when I think of a cowardly, egotistical, punk Barry Bonds and his claim as the greatest swatter of all. Anyone with a sports I.Q. could see with their own eyes these guys were roided out. It’s pretty easy to notice when a guy has to start cutting slits in the sleeves of his jersey to make the meat shanks fit through.

John

February 23rd, 2010
12:16 am

Does any of this really matter if MLB doesn’t issue an institutional mea culpa? Why do we have to do this guy by guy when anyone who was paying attention pretty much knows who was cheating and the eye in the sky was looking the other way?

matt r

February 23rd, 2010
12:33 am

I wonder how Hank would offer the same forgiveness to Bonds if he came out the same way (not that he ever will).

Reid Adair

February 23rd, 2010
12:40 am

I respect Hank Aaron as much as my father, but I disagree on this one. Mark McGwire’s situation is nothing like Andy Pettite’s. How many times did McGwire refuse to respond? His testimony before Congress and his refusal to admit it then was a huge difference.

junebaby

February 23rd, 2010
12:49 am

on the hall of fame issue…, is it fair to keep some guys out who are known to have done “roids”. but maybe let others in who may have not been exposed? the players we know of, are just the tip of the iceberg(imo). i’m almost positive that there many others we just don’t know about yet, and may never know of. a lot of those ???players may have already left the game. and a few more are probably still playing. the entire culture of baseball was tainted by steroids, not just the few names we’ve heard of. but as far as Mcguire goes, i agree with the hammer. the forgiveness has to start someplace. no person should have to go through bad stretches in life without the possibility of rehabilitating themselves. if they’ll never be forgiven, why should they try and do the right thing? with that scenario, they may as well stay mum.

Chris B

February 23rd, 2010
12:57 am

I also got to see Hank Aaron play as well as see him homer againist Houston the first time I went to a game at age ten. The only time I ever saw Willie Mays was when he was with the Mets and watched him take batting practice. What I remember most about that game however, was seeing Tom Seaver dominate a good hitting Braves team(with Aaron) and seeing him homer off the left field foul pole which was then made of steel and made a loud gong sound!

Michael

February 23rd, 2010
1:00 am

You are not too harsh Mitch . McGuire had a choice to NOT cheat the game. He CHOSE to cheat the game! There is nothing that can change that fact. People may choose to forgive him, but the Hall of Fame has set a certain standard that I hope will not reward his actions.

Conyers Braves Fan

February 23rd, 2010
4:37 am

I agree with Hank on this one and I believe that anyone comes clean and admits their mistake
they should be forgiven. If Pete Rose ever comes clean and does same, do you think Bud Selig will
forgive and reinstate Pete? His record set on the field did not result from him cheating.

Mike Thompson

February 23rd, 2010
6:06 am

Mark,

I remember you wrote about the McGuire subject several years ago, I never forgot the article. It was one of the best articles that a sports writer has written and I have read a lot of them over the years. I remember that it touched deeply on the overall subject of steroids also. The truth was obviously not out yet, but in your mind it was. You really let him have it. Would love to read that article again.

Let's Go

February 23rd, 2010
7:01 am

I personally don’t care if the players admit it or not but what I want to see is Major League Baseball and especially Bud Selig come clean and admit they knew for years what was going on but chose to do nothing about it because of the ratings and fan interest it caused after the strike of 94. MLB used McGuire & Sosa and the whole “Chicks Dig The Long Ball” slogan to line their pockets with millions of dollars and they need to come clean as much as the players do.

F-105 Thunderchief

February 23rd, 2010
7:13 am

Uh, blanket amnesty, and an asterisk. Thanks.

Let's Go

February 23rd, 2010
7:17 am

People have to remember they (Players of the 90’s) are not admitting to cheating or breaking the rules of baseball like Pete Rose because what they did was not illegal or against the rules. Personally I believe they were even encouraged by management, agents, teammates, and the union to use these substances and everyone has to come clean before this subject matter can be laid to rest. I’m not giving the players a pass because as a baseball fan for over 40 years they embarrassed the game I love but they should not be the only ones crucified by the fans and media.

todd grantham

February 23rd, 2010
7:18 am

Baseball and upcoming Spring. God is in Heaven and all is good.

todd grantham

February 23rd, 2010
7:18 am

I thought Pete had come clean on his gambling.

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

February 23rd, 2010
8:25 am

I’m wondering, Mr Bradley, did Mr Aaron discuss amphetamine use during his era? It was supposedly the drug of choice in the 60’s and 70’s. Has Mr Aaron come clean on that topic so he can sleep at night?

Marvin Mangrum

February 23rd, 2010
8:33 am

See, the thing about Rose cheating on baseball, it just pisses me off to say Rose cheated at baseball. He bet on his freaking team to win! To win. He was a manager and bet on his own team. Now you say a guy who was 6 foot 7 or so who weighed damn near 300 pounds then took steroids so he would have power should be forgiven. Sir, man, boy, I freaking think not! Damn Mister Aaron, damn you it makes no sense to ban Rose but allow the real cheaters to go along as nothing happened. And one more thing, I have said it before, on Tiger Woods, he is not a God, he is a punk, a pissant that plays golf well. We have autographs from everyone important ever to play golf but not Tiger, no if you want his they are on sale over at the tent. You writers carry on about him like he is something! Well you know he is something, he is the something that did what he did. Now silly question, name all the other golfers that did what he did, name em! Long list, huh. If instead of going to the writers tent you went on the fairway you would not have the thing for that arrogant pissant that you do. The only one ever to be like him, not Arnie, not Nicklaus, not Miller, not Watson, not Snead, none just Tiger. Now I guess he was just in a hurry to get back to his room. You know you writers make it seem that only special people get to be writers, and special people have all the answers. I hope that arrogant ahole just goes away, but he wont, but I do not watch, I just can not stand him. And for reason. And if you ever walked the fairways YOU would feel the same way!

Grey Dog

February 23rd, 2010
8:33 am

We can forgive but not forget. McGwire should be banned from baseball! There is no way he should be coaching with the Cards!

WonderDawg

February 23rd, 2010
8:38 am

Not harsh, MitchC. Mac hit a lot more homers roided up than he admits to. Canseco says he and McGuire shot each other up in the butt in the clubhouse bathroom in Oakland. And as we all know, Canseco is the only one telling it like it is about PED use in MLB. Hank can forgive him if he wants to, but Mac is just as bad as Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and the rest of the cheaters, regardless of what he as owned up to.

Angus

February 23rd, 2010
8:45 am

McGwire contends that PEDs didn’t help him hit homeruns – they only helped him heal faster. That’s BS and we all know it.

He’s only trying to maintain what little chance at the Hall of Fame he has left. If he admits PEDs =’s homeruns, he admits his stats are bogus and he’s got no shot at the Hall.

Sorry, his “confession” isn’t quite there yet to get my forgiveness.

You can’t rob a bank, admit it 10 years later, and still keep the money.

Blue

February 23rd, 2010
8:53 am

Mitch; why are you NOT accusing Bonds? It is already known that he used “the cream” and “the clear”. It is NOT about WHETHER he used PAD’s; it is just whether one is naive enough to believe that he didn’t know it, as he asserts. Yeah…right.

TommyJack

February 23rd, 2010
8:55 am

Henry is far more forgiving that moi.

Smoltz fan

February 23rd, 2010
9:04 am

Why does Bud Selig, the last to know somehow, still have his job as commish?
One reason Congressional hearings are such a joke is Selig never got any tough questions if I recall correctly.
Also I believe he gets paid around 14 mil/yr.
Prior commish, Fay Vincent I think, deserves some blame too.
MLB has scandals because it always sweeps it’s problems under the rug until they can no longer be ignored.
Would the Phillies have beated the Braves in 93 without Dykstra’s extra muscle and steroid aided attitude?
World Series Champions and playoff winners also should have an asterick.

Billy O

February 23rd, 2010
9:19 am

There are consequences for actions……forgiveness yes……Hall of Fame no.

Smoltz fan

February 23rd, 2010
9:19 am

Mark, I want to request a book review of “Crazy 08″, the last time the Cubs had a winner.
Cubs got into a playoff with the help of the “Merkle game” where he didn’t run to second on what should have been the game winning hit because the crowd raced onto the field. Tinker or Evans found a ball (probably not the actual one used on the play), touched second and Merkle was called out.

Smoltz fan

February 23rd, 2010
9:22 am

I do not think MLB has any idea how to address the issue of tainted World Series and playoffs teams.
I think MLB is hoping the issue never gets a following.

GetwhatUpayfor

February 23rd, 2010
9:54 am

McGwire is no role model for kids and should be banned from baseball. Its alright to forgive but they should pay for their actions.

Has anyone forgive Pete Rose? Hell no! What Pete did was not as bad as Mac, Bond ,Sosa and others. No respect for Cheaters, Drugs are other wise.
Even the kid from Braves, Schafer paid only 50 days…what a joke!

Love Hank and watched him play. It took Hank 20 are more years to start forgiving all the ones who made racial remarks and etc to him . I remember how bitter he was in 60’s 70’s but he had ever right to be bitter. I respect Hank but no to drug users.

PMC

February 23rd, 2010
9:55 am

I don’t have anything to forgive him for. He hasn’t done anything to me. The records are phony period. His “appology” was all about how great a hitter he wasn and how it wasn’t about the drugs….ok. He can believe that but he’s wrong. I have no problem with Mark Mcgwire earning a living in baseball. I’m not booing the guy ever… why? Again…never did anything to me. Just don’t insult my intelligence by saying stupid things like that he was such an amazing hitter he could have done all that without the drugs.

Hillbilly Deluxe

February 23rd, 2010
12:47 pm

Forgiving McGwire is fine but don’t put him in the Hall of Fame.

KenFromCalifornia

February 23rd, 2010
5:38 pm

the only thing that mark mcgwire admitted to is using it to “…speed recovery from injuries”.

mcgwire got up on tv and said his bat speed and hand/eye were just as good at his advanced age WITHOUT the use of steroids. he still would have hit all those monster home runs without steroids.

heck, mcgwire himself admitted using creatine before it was banned by baseball. and the reason he gave for using it had nothing to do with recovering from injuries.

let’s not even get into how much extra salary he got, or how much extra revenue the cardinals received from all the attention he brought to st. louis during his home run chase.

no one should reward people who only want to give half-truths. mcgwire cheated. and his success made other players feel like they also had to cheat to keep pace. that is mark mcgwire’s legacy.

he gets no sympathy. let him tell everyone the identity of who supplied him with years and years of illegal steroids if he truly wants to come clean.