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Publisher's column -- Sunday, September 20, 1998

What Mark and Sammy have, and Bill doesn't

Pretty much all of my heroes were baseball players when I was a kid.

There was Mickey "The Mick" Mantle and Willie "Say Hey" Mays. They were like baseball deities during their prime. My other personal favorites included Rocky Colavito (has there ever been a better baseball name?) and Eddie Mathews (Eddie Mattress to those of us who loved him).

Those were the '50s and '60s. Baseball hit some hard times in the '80s and '90s as pro football and then pro basketball overtook it in the consciousness of American sports fans. It hit rock bottom with the strike and resulting cancelled World Series three years ago. Some said this was the death knell for this once proud sport long touted as America's pastime.

Who would have thought that two guys named Sammy and Mark would lift the game to new heights in a matter of a few months. And who would have dreamed that the American presidency would fall to depths that are beginning to appear bottomless.

Both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have surpassed the single-season home run totals of Babe Ruth and Roger Maris. Their obvious joy of the game and relentless chase of the 61-homer record have captured the attention of the nation. They both seem to be men of character as well as possessing prodigious talent on the field.

I never thought in my lifetime that someone would hit more than 61 home runs in a season. During most seasons the mightiest sluggers struggled to hit even 40 or 50. Mark and Sammy each had 63 entering Friday's games. Who knows what new standard one or both of them will set for future generations of ball players?

Unfortunately, President Bill Clinton has also been setting new standards. No one could imagine that our nation's highest office could be dragged to such depths by one man. Shame on you Bill Clinton.

Athletes shouldn't be the nation's heroes. We should appreciate their God-given talents and the hard work they have put forth to reach their achievements. But heroes?

Presidents should be heroes. The chief executive along with military leaders and other high-ranking public servants and captains of industry should be inspiring us to reach higher with our lives.

We need people in such positions that our children can look up to and emulate. And we need some heroes that even seem remarkable to the adult population. To some, President John Kennedy was both war hero and inspirational leader. To others, President Ronald Reagan defeated communism and led our country back to greatness.

In future elections of presidents maybe more Americans will focus on the character issue and less on dogmatic political themes. Amazingly, most of us were all too aware of Mr. Clinton's character flaws during both of his presidential campaigns. There was too much smoke to believe he was not a womanizer and used poor judgment in his personal life. But we elected him anyway.

High moral character and honesty would seem to be the most important elements in selecting a leader. Baseball players don't necessarily have to have that. Just talent. Our current president is bright and talented. But it should be obvious now that he has let us all down.

Let us hope America has learned its lesson. Character is the only important issue when selecting a president.

Terry Horne is the publisher of the Exponent and Telegram.

His column appears every Sunday.