Commentary

The Adventures of Huckleberry Mac

Originally Published: March 3, 2010
By Jim Caple | Page 2

News item: The Missouri Senate voted unanimously to rename a stretch of I-70 in St. Louis from Mark McGwire Highway to Mark Twain Highway. The measure now goes to the House ...

The Adventures of Huckleberry Mac

Chapter 1

Off Base

You don't know about me without you have driven on a road by the name the Mark McGwire Highway in St. Louis; but that ain't no matter anymore, on account the Missouri Senate voted to rename it for Mr. Mark Twain this week. They had been talking about this ever since the book "Juiced'' was made by Jose Canseco. He told the truth mainly, but there were some stretchers in his book, like him and me taking a dead cat to the graveyard and running off to be Pittsburgh Pirates and injecting syringes full of steroids into each other in a cave. But that is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Ozzie Guillen.

Anyways, the Missouri legislature named that piece of highway for me after I hit 70 big taters to break the record of 61 made by Roger Maris many years before. When I done it, reporters from all over the country took to following me around from city to city like I was the lost dauphin of France, writing stories about me being almost a god out of scripture just cuz of how I hit so many round-trippers and all. They said my circuit clouts practically saved the game, what with all the fans who been turned off before by the players' affair and the commissioner canceling the 1994 World Series and Ken Burns "Baseball'' series. The way everyone went on, it was like going to your own funeral and standing in the back of the church listening to folks who was no relation all praying and sobbing about what a wonderful soul you was and how lucky they was to have knowed you and how you made everyone everywhere happier. Not that no one could attend their own funeral, without signing with the Pirates.

The thing is, I pretty much whitewashed them all, the reporters and the fans and everybody. I was taking steroids -- just to keep healthy, mind -- but no one never cared a bit at the time. They seen how big me and my acne was and knowed I took androstenedione, but they didn't mind none. All they wanted to talk about was all them round-trippers. Fooling them was easier than an owner getting taxpayers to pay him to build him his own stadium by fibbing how it will create jobs.

Only one day, they all turned against me. All of a sudden, they decided steroids was bad and I was going to hell or jail or Kansas City for taking them. I don't know why; maybe it was the Widow Douglas stirring them up or the U.S. Congress subpoenaing me to testify. All I know is all them people who went on and on about me saving the game in 1998 when they must have knowed I took steroids now said I done ruined it. Well, I was blindsided. It was like afloating on the river, bound for Cooperstown and enjoying a smoke on a corncob pipe and watching the stars in the heavens with your best friend all peaceful like and then having a steamboat run you over and smash up your boat and leave you for dead on the river bank. Or like being a Cubs fan.

Well, I snuck off and lived alone on an island and didn't talk to no one for awhile, not even Congress. I was practically a hermit, sort of like Milton Bradley. But now I am back in baseball with my old manager, Skipper Tony, learning his Cardinals how to hit. But I will take a blood oath (which is different than a blood test) that I won't have nothing to do with those steroids anymore. I learnt my lesson. I just think maybe I can give something back to baseball after all it gived me. And maybe I can make people remember that I wasn't such a bad egg after all. That I was friendly and helped kids and made people feel happy and hit 49 home runs as a rookie before I was on the juice.

I certainly ain't doin' this for the money. Thanks to all them taters I hit, I got more money than a body could tell what to do with, lessun he had a vengeful ex-wife and bad judgment, which was definitely the case with Canseco. That is why he wound up doing time in jail and appearing on reality shows. I don't know which was worse, though if I had to guess I would say boxing one of the ex-"Partridge Family" kids is about as low as a player can sink. Without it was ratting on your teammates in a book.

I also hope the state House votes to not change the highway name. It seems to me that if you name a road for someone, you shouldn't a go and change it without he does something real low down and despicable. I mean, Pete Rose still has a street named after him but that's a story for another book entirely.

BOX SCORE LINE OF THE WEEK

Admittedly, Tommy Hanson's line in the Grapefruit League-opening game Tuesday isn't the greatest to ever win this coveted award:

2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

But you have to admit, after four months, it sure feels good to see a box score again, doesn't it?

DONNIE, YOU'RE OUT OF YOUR ELEMENT

• With Sen. Jim Bunning in the news for single-handedly holding up a $10 billion extension of unemployment benefits (temporarily) earlier this week, it's worth noting that he received 74.2 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in his 12th year of eligibility in 1988, with just four voters holding up his election to Cooperstown. It would have been reasonable for Bunning to assume his vote total would rise to the needed number the next year (it had gone up steadily each year since he received 33 percent of the vote in 1982), but it also would have been mistaken. His vote total dropped to 63.3 percent in 1989, and he received 63.7 percent in his final year on the ballot in 1991. He finally was elected by the veterans committee when he became eligible five years later. Does he belong in? Bunning was 224-184 with a 3.27 ERA, won 20 games in one season and 19 games in four others. He led the league in strikeouts three times and finished with 2,855, which was second all-time when he retired. He also threw a perfect game. The three pitchers whose careers are matched most similarly to his on baseball-reference.com are Mickey Lolich, Luis Tiant and Rick Reuschel. Let's just say that if Bunning is in, Bert Blyleven -- who fell five votes short of election this year -- should be a lock next year. Blyleven won more games, struck out more batters, threw more shutouts and had only a slightly higher ERA (3.31). Plus, he never held up payments to the unemployed.

• If you watched the Olympic hockey gold-medal game this past Sunday and wondered why baseball doesn't shut down for the Olympics, it's a moot issue since the International Olympic Committee kicked the sport out after Beijing and made very clear this past October that it won't be bringing baseball back. Jayson Stark, meanwhile, makes a good pitch for a new World Baseball Classic format that would hold early round games in the spring and the semifinals and finals during the All-Star break. I would tweak his idea only a bit by dropping the Futures Game and playing the WBC semifinals in its place.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter at jimcaple.

Back to Page 2

• Philbrick: Page 2's Greatest Hits, 2000-2012
• Caple: Fond memories of a road warrior
• Snibbe: An illustrated history of Page 2
Philbrick, Gallo: Farewell podcast Listen

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com