No word from McGwire

MARK McGWIRE is back in baseball!

When the Cardinals hired the former slugger as their hitting coach this week, baseball commissioner Bud Selig gushed that he was "delighted that Mark's coming back to the game."


And all that stuff about steroids and telling Congress he's not here to talk about the past? No matter, Selig assured.

"I have no misgivings about this at all," he said in a conference call. "Mark McGwire is a very, very fine man and the Cardinals are to be applauded."

Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and manager Tony La Russa had nothing but glowing things to say about the cuddly McGwire at the press conference to announce the hiring. Conspicuously absent was McGwire, who always seemed to cower at that sight of an uncapped pen . . . even when reporters were describing his Ruthian feats with profound reverence.

Forgive us for being cynical, but Big Mac received about 23 percent of the vote in his first 2 years of Hall of Fame eligibility. He needs 75 percent for election. Think McGwire's Hall of Fame rehabilitation has begun in St. Louie? If so, that very, very fine man will have to talk about the past at some point.

Raw hockey talent

Great scene near the end of the movie, "Slap Shot." Ned Braden, played by Michael Ontkean, darts to center ice and begins shedding parts of his uniform. He parades around the ice until everything is off but his skates and jock.

Maybe that's what inspired an Idaho junior hockey team to pull off a similar stunt.

Players from the Boise-based Idaho Junior Steelheads engaged in a game of "strip hockey" last week - shedding a piece of uniform every time a practice shot missed its mark.

As redress for the incident, the team has been stripped of its rink privileges at Idaho Ice World for 4 days. One 17-year-old who shed his underwear, but only briefly, was suspended longer.

Police are looking into whether Boise's public-decency laws were broken. The city forbids people from showing their buttocks in public, so that 17-year-old might be in a little trouble.

- Joe Berkery