McGwire applauded in public appearance
By R.B. FALLSTROM
ST. LOUIS — Mark McGwire received a standing ovation from Cardinals fans yesterday in his first public appearance in St. Louis since admitting he used steroids.
His scheduled news conference, only minutes later, was much more combative.
The second session was shifted to an overcrowded hallway at the last minute, and McGwire evaded questions about the criticism he's received from ex-players. He repeatedly emphasized that he was ready to talk about the game instead of performance-enhancing drugs.
"I hope you all can accept this," McGwire said at the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up. "Let's all move on from this. Baseball is great right now, baseball is better."
Dressed in jeans, a sweater and running shoes, the 46-year-old McGwire walked on stage to "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses, the hard-rock song played before his at-bats with the Cardinals. The team's new hitting coach was cheered by fans who secured seats as much as 3 1/2 hours earlier.
"I've learned a lot," McGwire told fans. "Especially to kids out there, steroids are bad. I made a huge mistake in my life and it's something I want you guys to learn from. Don't ever, ever go down that road."
McGwire said he's been "dead honest" in interviews since the admission. But he wasn't interested in rebutting criticism from former Oakland teammate Jose Canseco, who said McGwire is still lying by denying that the two players injected themselves with steroids in clubhouse bathroom stalls.
"I'm not going down that road with Jose," McGwire said. "I'll take the high road with the Jose stuff."
Former Cardinals slugger Jack Clark, who called Mc-Gwire a "phony" in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story last week, was booed in an appearance on the same stage not long before McGwire's appearance.
"I heard he said something. I don't know what he said," McGwire said. "Hey, listen, they have their opinions. I was being as honest as I am."
McGwire hit 583 home runs from 1986 to 2001.