There has been plenty of hype over the past couple of years regarding this book, as Jay McGwire promised a tell-all about his famous slugging brother. It's not quite that. It's a book that seems quite unsure of what message it wants to send. In that it seems as conflicted as Jay McGwire himself does.
Perhaps the best place to begin is to explain this book isn't Mark McGwire's story, or even his side of the story, this is Jay's story, perhaps stilted, perhaps not.
In fact he's the kid your parents gave you the warning about. He's the one who had his eye put out (or at least lost his vision) by having it shot out with a BB gun, while he and his friends were out in the woods shooting at each other. It was one of many bad decisions he'd make, but it was the one which enabled him to make many of the ones which followed. That's because Jay got a nice insurance payout when his family sued the family which had purchased Jay the BB gun, despite their wishes.
That's the money which started Jay's decent into the world of steroids. Despite the few pages that seem to have been added towards the end of the book saying that steroids are bad and should be avoided, Jay spends plenty of pages waxing rhapsodic about steroids, how they are used, their effects and how good they made him feel. So much so that once he found he had access and not much else going on in his life that he opted to try to become a professional bodybuilder. As he plainly puts it, bodybuilders know more about steroids than doctors.
It's probably true, because no one else actually or even experimentally is willing to put a human body through that kind of steroidal stress. And that's the life that Jay chose, turning down college scholarships for football from at least two universities to enter into the world of competitive bodybuilding.
From this he gained a fair knowledge of steroids, pumping his body full of just about every steroid imaginable. This was knowledge he'd later share with his brother Mark.
Jay's relationship with Mark is touched on a lot in the book, but Jay when it comes to steroids seems to pussyfoot around the issue a fair bit. He vehemently denies that Mark ever did steroids with Jose Canseco and that Canseco's claims were absurd -- that Mark relied entirely on natural talent until 1994.
In 1994 Jay claims to have introduced Mark into the world of steroids and HGH, not to make Mark into a home run hitting monster, but to help him heal faster and help him compensate for his injuries by building a stronger core. By this time Mark was already a great home run hitter, steroids just made him a little stronger.
By 1996 a mere two years later, Jay had himself a epiphany, and after a conversation with God, decided that he'd clean up his life, get away from steroids, and find another purpose. And he did. At that time he claims to have disposed of his steroids and straightened up -- it also claims that he stopped supplying Mark with any steroids or helping him train with them, and that Mark was clean from that point on too -- and that he was clean during his record home run setting seasons.
The problem is that Jay, even when he's trying hard to be, isn't the most credible of sources. And just because he stopped supplying his brother doesn't mean that the trainer who Jay had introduced him to had stopped supplying Mark.
After reading the book, I found it hard to swallow a lot of Jay McGwire's claims, ranging from why he and his brother Mark have been estranged for roughly eight years now, to when and why he started using steroids, to Mark McGwire's use of them.
Oddly enough however, Mark actually admitted his use, just weeks before the publication of this book. He hasn't told his side of the story and I doubt he ever will, but Jay's side of it, makes for a fair read despite the fact that Jay's credibility and willingness to share blame generously among his brothers and parents comes through badly during the book.
Give this one a charitable 1.5 balls out of four, because it is an interesting look inside the steroid era and a side of Mark McGwire that we have not seen.
AtHomePlate.com writes its book reviews with the following rating scale in mind:
Four Balls: An exceptional book that truly earns a walk straight to the local book store to get a copy.
Three Balls: This book stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Two Balls: A book worth reading/owning and is usually above average.
One Ball: This book has something to say but is nothing special.
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