When it Came to Quitting Andro, Big Mac Bunted

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Mark McGwire says he wants to be a role model -- he just doesn’t like everybody knowing about it. On Wednesday night, just before hitting his 499th career home run (and 42nd of the season), the Ruth-and-Maris-topping Cardinals slugger casually let it drop to a few gathered reporters that oh, by the way, he quit taking Andro four months ago. A year ago, McGwire’s admission that he used the dietary supplement ignited not only sales of the iffy, supposedly muscle-building potion but a firestorm of controversy over his home-run record and his fitness as a role model. Now McGwire had quit, he said, because "Young kids take it because of me. I don't like that." Excuse me, slugger, but how were the young people supposed to know you’d stopped popping if you don’t break the news until the dog days of summer?

"This was actually a smart way to go for him," says TIME reporter Staci Kramer from St. Louis, where McGwire proceeded to smack his 500th and 501st home runs on Thursday night. "He’s really sick of this story, and of all the attention in general. "If he'd made this announcement at the beginning of the season, every game, every home run, would be a running comparison to last season. This way he gets the message out there without a replay of the added daily distraction that he got during most of the record race." This was a way to let it seep out -- if it gets out at all. McGwire deliberately passed on a chance to repeat the announcement in front of the post-game news cameras, thereby missing a chance to get his message blanket coverage on the news and sports channels. If McGwire really feels he’s done his young fans a disservice, and wants to reverse the damage, surely this is a lousy way to do it. Then again, he never wanted to talk about it in the first place -- an Associated Press reporter spotted the pills in McGwire’s locker.