During that wonderful fall of 1998, while in St. Louis following the final stages of Mark McGwire's home run chase, I often would phone my 7-year-old son with updates.
Big Mac hit another one! Big Mac just missed! Can you feel the air from Big Mac's swing? That thing that sounds like a train, that's the crowd!
These were more than baseball moments, these were bonding moments, a father and his only son learning to have a conversation, learning to be friends.
When this year's Hall of Fame voting was announced Tuesday morning, with McGwire and his jaw-dropping statistics eligible for the first time, I fittingly picked up the phone to call my son again.
But I couldn't do it.
This newspaper recently prohibited its writers from voting for awards, but I would not have checked McGwire's name. In fact, I have previously campaigned against McGwire on these pages, claiming that his superhuman physical appearance during the home run chase, combined with his feeble appearance during the congressional investigation, were all the evidence required.
He looked like a duck, and then later quacked like a duck, so ...
But today I wonder if McGwire is less a duck and more of a scapegoat.
It's about red-faced writers like myself, suckered by the steroid era, angered by baseball's response, frustrated by the arrogance of the deceit.
For several years, we have been looking to administer some street justice.
In McGwire, we found our mark.
With 417 of the 545 voters ignoring McGwire, the message was direct.
Players can hide behind secret testing, a tough union and public apathy, but they cannot hide from plain sight.
If big-armed, thick-legged players want to make a mockery of the game, then writers will make a mockery of their legacy.
On a day dominated by the overwhelmingly normal Tony Gywnn and Cal Ripken Jr., it sickens me to think that they might have shared their Cooperstown podium with a cartoon character.
Gwynn would have talked about how he collected 3,141 hits by showing up early and studying films for hours.
Then McGwire would have talked about, what, how overnight his arms grew into at least 50 homers for four consecutive seasons? At age 32? During the middle of the steroid era? After never hitting as many as 50 homers in any of his six previous healthy years?
Ripken would have talked about the work ethic that led him to show up for every game for more than 15 years.
Then McGwire would have talked about, hmm, disappearing after retirement so nobody could see how much his body has shrunk?
McGwire should remain on the Hall of Fame ballot for 14 more years, and will obviously garner more votes annually as anger subsides and perspective returns. But there is little chance he can gain the 50 percent of the vote that he is lacking.
He probably is barred from the Hall of Fame forever, handed a life sentence to be served outside the Cooperstown gates, not as a convict, but as a suspect, in a system where there clearly is no difference.
A couple of years ago, under oath, in front of the nation, McGwire had his chance to deny that he used steroids. But he did not. We assume it was because he could not.