On behalf of the journalism profession, I want to apologize to Steve Wilstein.
It's six years too late, but still "We're sorry, Steve. Sorrier than you can ever imagine."
The sport tried to ignore Steve's story.
The team wanted him banned from the clubhouse.
And the worst part: Other journalists -- writers and commentators -- personally attacked him and wanted to know why he would write something so negative amid one of the most positive stories in baseball history.
"I was just doing my job," Steve says now.
You probably don't know Steve Wilstein, but he deserves a spot in Cooperstown for setting the record straight on a bogus record; for uncovering baseball's dirty little secret when nobody else would.
He's The Associated Press reporter who, during the fascinating/fraudulent Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase of 1998, noticed a bottle of pills sitting openly in McGwire's locker.
The bottle was there for everybody to see, but Wilstein was the only one who dared to look. He wrote down the name of the substance--"a-n-d-r-o-s-t-e-n-e-d-i-o-n-e"--in his notebook, did a little research and discovered andro was a form of testosterone-producing steroid banned by virtually every other sport except major league baseball.
Wilstein asked the hulked-up, bulked-up McGwire about the substance, and McGwire not only admitted to taking it, he stated unabashedly, "Everybody I know in the game of baseball uses the same stuff I use."
You would think a statement like that would incite the media to investigate steroids in baseball. Instead, most media members tried to discredit Wilstein for having the audacity to stand in front of McGwire's locker and tell the American public what he saw.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa tried to get Wilstein banned from the locker room. McGwire accused Wilstein of "snooping" around his locker. One lapdog baseball writer accused Wilstein of "inventing a scandal."
Another tried to denigrate Wilstein's story by calling it a "tabloid-driven controversy." Many others called him "unprofessional."
"The reaction was disappointing," Wilstein says now.
Six years later, as steroids threaten the integrity of the game, we journo-hypocrites ought to be ashamed of ourselves. It's pretty pitiful when journalists ignore the facts to perpetuate the fairy tale.
Funny, but we columnists and commentators aren't defending Barry Bonds with the same vehemence with which we defended McGwire.
In fact, now that the government is investigating steroids in baseball, many of us are strongly (and safely) on board the anti-Bonds bandwagon.
Back then, baseball, the national media and everybody else associated with the game buried their heads in the euphoric sands of the time and ignored what was literally right in front of their eyes.
While everybody else rooted for the story, Steve Wilstein rooted out the truth.