NEW YORK (AP) — Goose Gossage watched Mark McGwire’s televised confession to steroids use and was happy his former teammate came clean. That’s where the praise ended, with the Hall of Fame reliever saying there should be no place in Cooperstown for McGwire or any other player who used performance-enhancing drugs.
“I definitely think that they cheated,” Gossage said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “And what does the Hall of Fame consist of? Integrity. Cheating is not part of integrity.”
For Gossage, Hank Aaron still holds the career record of 755 home runs and Roger Maris owns the season record of 61. The Goose tosses out the fantastic figures posted by Barry Bonds, McGwire, Sammy Sosa as part of a “cheating era,” dismissing them as if they were scuffed baseballs being rolled to the clubbies. He equated them with Pete Rose, barred from the Hall ballot because of his lifetime ban for betting on Cincinnati while managing the team.
“The integrity of the Hall of Fame and the numbers and the history are all in jeopardy,” said Gossage, inducted two years ago. “I don’t think they should be recognized. Here’s a guy Aaron, we’re talking about the greatest record of all records. And he did it on a level playing field. He did it with God-given talent. And the same with Maris, absolutely. These are sacred records and they’ve been shattered by cheaters.”
Hall of Famer Willie McCovey wouldn’t factor drugs into the equation and said he likely would vote for McGwire if he had the opportunity.
“Whether he took steroids or not, he did so much for baseball,” McCovey said. “He almost helped save baseball for a few years there.”
Joe Morgan, a Hall of Famer and the board’s vice chairman, feels bad for players who didn’t use performance enhancers.
“Those guys are being penalized twice,” he said. “First, the guys who did steroids had all those great numbers, made all the money, and the guys who didn’t do steroids and just had good years, didn’t make as much money. So they get hurt there. Now at the end of their careers when you have to compare those numbers to the guys who did do steroids, they’re going to get hurt again as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned. So I can’t in my own mind excuse what happened, whatever the reason.”
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency executive director Travis Tygart dismissed McGwire’s claim that steroids didn’t help him become a better player, that they only allowed him to become more healthful.
“It’s just crazy. I don’t buy that for a second,” he said. “It’s sort of disappointing you don’t just come clean, take full responsibility. But the trend is with most athletes we’ve seen in baseball that they take half responsibility.”
Former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound criticized baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who issued a statement declaring the Steroids Era over.
“I think the jury is still out on that issue and that the self-serving statements by Bud Selig do nothing to increase confidence,” Pound said in an e-mail. “What has emerged in the whole baseball mess is that drug use is widespread and that even the best players are involved — and still MLB is whistling past the graveyard.”
Steve Trachsel, who gave up McGwire’s historic home run No. 62 a dozen years ago, was saddened by McGwire’s admission.
“It’s disappointing because it’s such a great moment in the history of sports. So many people were rooting for him and Sammy, not just in America but all around the world,” Trachsel told the AP. “It’s kind of disappointing the whole thing is kind of dirty now.”
Byron Dorgan, a U.S. Senator from North Dakota, used McGwire’s confession as an opportunity to urge the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee to elect Maris, a two-time AL MVP who grew up Grand Forks and Fargo.
“More than forty years after breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record, Maris now stands as the only player to do so without the use of steroids,” Dorgan said. “It’s important to set an honest example for our nation’s children who put themselves in danger when they try to emulate their sports heroes by bulking up with performance-enhancing drugs.”
McGwire’s tearful admission that he used steroids for a decade, including when he hit 70 homers in 1998, was the talk of baseball.
“Hopefully that will help clear the air and we can move on,” Houston Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith said.
McGwire, who retired in 2001, had been widely ridiculed since he evaded questions before a congressional committee five years ago, repeatedly saying he wasn’t there to address his past. His confession was sparked by the St. Louis Cardinals’ decision in October to hire him as hitting coach.
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley, and AP Sports Writers Chris Duncan, Chris Lehourites and Eddie Pells contributed to this report.