Jayson Williams and Mark McGwire

December 15, 2010 11:17:27 AM PST
With all the troubles in the world - and where to begin? - it may seem to some strange that two former athletes are so high in the news rundown. But Jayson Williams and Mark McGwire are both making news tonight. Not good news.

Williams, the former New Jersey Nets star, pleaded guilty today to aggravated assault for the 2002 death of his limo driver Costa Christofi. Under a plea deal, Williams will serve 18 months in prison - and could get another five years for a prior conviction of trying to cover up the crime.

Had he gone ahead with a re-trial on charges of reckless manslaughter, he could have served 10 years, if convicted.

Williams' life - clearly a mess, as witnessed by last week's arrest on drunk driving charges. But there will be some people who think serving 18 months for accidentally shooting someone with a shotgun isn't enough of a punishment. The family of Mr. Christofi, at least so far, isn't talking. You'll recall they received a civil settlement from Mr. Williams.

We'll have the latest, tonight at 11.

Now to McGwire, once baseball's home run champ - but always under suspicion of having done it with the help of illegal drugs. He always denied it.

Until today.

McGwire, now the batting coach for his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, is on something of a public relations campaign.

He says it's because baseball has changed and cleaned up its act. And in fact, the game's Commissioner today responded to McGwire's admission by announcing that the baseball had only two positives for steroids out of 3,722 tests.

It might be because he knows that now that his friend, Cardinals' manager Tony LaRussa, has given him a second chance to make a livelihood from baseball, the truth has to will-out.

Or maybe it's because he knows there's no chance to ever get into the Hall of Fame. Last week's voting saw McGwire come in ninth, getting less than 24 percent of the vote - far below the 75 percent needed. This is the third year McGwire has failed miserably to make the cut; no one who votes ever believed him - never believed that this once rather thin young player could suddenly bulk up naturally and become a modern-day version of the Hulk.

McGwire slugged 583 career homers - and it's hard to imagine anyone who hits that many home runs would NOT be in the Hall of Fame.

We'll have the latest on the McGwire admission, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, it is difficult to replace legend - I know that first hand. And my only advice to Nina Pineda, who tonight replaces the recently retired and much loved and respected Tappy Phillips as the on-air quarterback of the "7 On Your Side" consumer reporting franchise, is that one cannot replace a legend. One can merely succeed her.

Nina is a worthy choice for the job. She's competitive and compassionate, persistent and passionate, curious and caring. In other words, all the traits one needs to be a successful reporter, and a certainly a reporter in this beat.

Her first segment for our 11 o'clock newscast is likely to give some the creeps. Bed Bugs. But Nina tonight doesn't talk so much about the problem as she presents a solution.

Bed Bugs have mushroomed as a big bugaboo (sorry) in New York City. Now, Nina discovers a do-it-yourself remedy, for less than $20!

And we're watching the fallout from the new political book, co-written by former ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin. Some of it focuses on Sarah Palin (who today was named as a contributor and analyst on the Fox News Channel, shocker). But some of it focuses on U.S. Senator Harry Reid from Nevada, who made what President Obama called "unfortunate" comments about "Negro dialect" when talking about then-candidate Obama.

There are those - Republicans - who are calling for Reid to resign, comparing his comments to Sen. Trent Lott's comments about Sen. Strom Thurman. Thurman was a long-time segregationist with history of being against civil rights. Reid has no such history, and, in fact, has the backing of the most-public African American leaders.

But the real downfall of Reid might come from his home state - his popularity is about 30 percent. We'll see.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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