You just can’t fool my Lady Bergstein

Mar 22, 2005 12:23 AM

The lady who lets me hang around her house is an omnivorous reader, mostly biographies, and her forays with the tube usually consist of the news and people making it.

She does not play golf, but became intrigued, along with millions of others, with Tiger, and follows every stroke when he plays.

She does not play poker, but became fascinated, along with millions of others, at shadowy-looking guys making and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a hand or two.

She does not follow baseball, but because of her intense interest in life I was not surprised to wander in off the street the other day and have her tell me to be quiet while she watched a bunch guys who throw and hit a little round white ball testifying before a bunch of politicians looking for — and finding — national air time. The lady knew Sammy Sosa by name, had heard of Mark McGwire, and knew that Curt Schilling pitched for someone. Like any woman, she knew without having to be told that Jose Canseco was a hunk.

So I kept quiet, as told, and watched with interest — more the lady’s reactions than the testimony — as these guys swung at pitches from the politicians.

She thought Schilling was smart and supremely confident he could hit anything these people could throw, and was enjoying himself in showing the nation that he could play ball with the major leaguers of Washington.

She figured that McGwire — a rather strange figure in glasses who once could hit a ball a mile — wished he was home reading the local gazette or cooking dinner or cutting the grass, instead of following his lawyers’ instructions line by line as if they were his batting coach telling him to move his left foot or lift his shoulder slightly as he swung.

She knew darn well that baseball had a steroid problem, as did commissioner Bud Selig and the players’ executive director Donald Fehr. And, she knew their denials under oath were one more indication that raising your right hand does not necessarily mean you are telling the truth and the whole truth, so help you Lords of Baseball.

Mr. McGwire, repeatedly saying he was not in Washington to talk about the past — his or baseball’s — might as well have been in Mozambique, for all the good it served the congressmen and congresswomen getting all that valuable air time but little more. When McGwire was asked — twice — if he thought using steroids was cheating, he told congressmen Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, "That’s not for me to determine."

When McHenry asked Schilling the same question, the answer was "Yes," and when McHenry then asked if records set by players using steroids should stand, Schilling said, "Absolutely not." McGwire and Sosa, the two most affected by the answer to that question, replied identically. McGwire said, "It’s not up to me to determine that," and Sosa immediately echoed it.

Canseco, the guy who started all this with his book "Juiced," ducked the question cutely, saying "It’s impossible to measure. I would guess it depends on what one steroid does to one player and another player."

The lady watching the sideshow, as a good mother who raised two high performing kids, perked up when Congressman William Lacey of Missouri asked the key question of the day. He said to McGwire, "We are both fathers of young children. Both my son and daughter love sports and they look up to stars like you. Can we look at those children with a straight face and tell them that great players like you play the game with honesty and integrity?"

McGwire, ignoring that perfect strike like it was a ball high and far outside, said, "Like I said earlier, I’m not going to go into the past and talk about it." He lost the lady on that one, but gained a walk when he finally said, "My message is steroids are bad, don’t do them."

She turned the set off at that point, and said to me, "Ok, now you can talk. What was it you wanted this time?"