Jeansonne: Busch family, Fisk, Herzog, Jenkins give thumbs down on McGwire

St. Louis Cardinals batting coach Mark McGwire swings

St. Louis Cardinals batting coach Mark McGwire swings a bat as he works with Cardinals outfielder Colby Rasmus in a batting cage. (January 17, 2010) (Credit: AP )

John Jeansonne

Newsday columnist John Jeansonne. John Jeansonne

Jeansonne has been a reporter in Newsday’s sports department since

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A spokeswoman for Adolphus Busch IV, scion of the St. Louis beer family that owned the Cardinals for almost a half century, called early Friday morning to say that The Fourth - as Busch is known - had "changed his mind" about granting interviews.

This followed the open letter Busch had e-mailed to various media outlets Thursday (with a notation in bold that "Mr. Busch is available for comment if you wish") in which he pilloried Mark McGwire's "orchestrated apology" for steroid use, saying the former Cardinals slugger "deliberately cheated the game and stole its most coveted records along the way . . . stonewalled Congress . . . even lied to the Cardinal fans and the media . . ."

Busch further castigated baseball commissioner Bud Selig for welcoming McGwire "back to the very game he betrayed" as a Cardinals hitting coach, and he blamed former players association chief Donald Fehr for "keeping drug monitoring off the table." Fehr and Selig, Busch wrote, "made a mockery of their responsibilities to protect the integrity of the game."

The spokeswoman made it clear that "you are free to quote from the letter; that's what it's for," but apologized that she had no control over Busch's schedule or his unavailability. So it remains unclear exactly what prompted the outburst from the 45-year-old great-great-grandson of the Anheuser-Busch founder.

The Busch family no longer owns the baseball team; that era, which began in 1953, ended in 1996, one year before McGwire joined the Cardinals and two years before he broke the one-season home-run record amid enormous public hoopla. But "his name still is on the stadium and he certainly has a longstanding relationship there," Busch's spokeswoman said. It is an iconic St. Louis name and therefore adds gravitas to the sort of criticism increasingly echoed by familiar faces from baseball's performing troupe.

Prominently quoted during the week, in reaction to McGwire's thoroughly unsurprising admission that he had doped much of his career, were former manager Whitey Herzog, catcher Carlton Fisk and pitcher Ferguson Jenkins - all elected to baseball's Hall of Fame.

Herzog expressed outrage to the Appleton (Wis.) Post-Crescent that "the people in St. Louis give Mark McGwire a standing ovation the other day [at a winter fan convention], and [another former Cardinal] Jack Clark said every steroid user should be banned from baseball and they booed him. Now what the hell is the matter with society when that happens?"

Fisk told the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday that McGwire's claim that he used steroids only to combat injury and not to enhance his power hitting was "a crock."

"There's a reason they call it performance-enhancing drugs," Fisk said. "That's what it does - performance enhancement. [McGwire] says, 'Well, it doesn't help eye-and-hand coordination.' Well, of course it does. It allows you more acuity physically and mentally and optically. You are going to be stronger and you are going to be better."

Jenkins, in a statement sent to The Associated Press, challenged McGwire by saying: "You have not even begun to apologize to those you harmed. You have yet to apologize to all the pitchers you faced while juiced. You altered pitchers' lives. You may have shortened pitchers' careers because of the advantage you forced over them while juiced."

In his e-mailed comments, Adolphus Busch wrote, "I suspect I am not alone in my disappointment at McGwire's recent 'clarification' on his use of illegal steroids."

Of course, he is not. What is noteworthy about his, and other criticisms fired at McGwire in the past few days, is that they increasingly come from baseball insiders, who for so long tended to circle the wagons against outside attacks on the game's honesty. Herzog said: "I don't want to comment on steroids because they're all lying. And they're still lying."

When The Fourth is ready to elaborate on his own orchestrated statement, it could reveal him to be a truer fan of baseball than those folks choosing McGwire over Clark as an object of their affection.