McGwire received a polite, mostly warm reception from the crowd at Busch when he tore down the No. 3 in right field on Friday night, signifying that only two regular-season games remain at the current ballpark. He did not take the customary ride around the warning track, instead stepping out from behind the outfield wall to do the honors.
The pause between McGwire's introduction and his appearance may have led to the slightly muted response, because two innings later, when he addressed the crowd from a luxury box, the reaction from the sellout crowd was louder and longer.
"I think it's outstanding," McGwire told reporters from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Associated Press on Friday. "I'm ecstatic they invited me. It's good to be back here. I live in California. I probably get back here a couple times a year to visit my in-laws. I've got too many great memories of here in St. Louis. It's going to be a great weekend, a lot of memories."
The Cardinals are seeing off old Busch this weekend, with a new park set to open next spring. McGwire's reception had been a source of some speculation, because of his appearance at Congressional hearings on steroids in baseball. But there were few boos, and those were easily drowned out by cheers. In St. Louis, at least, McGwire remains a favorite.
Asked about the hearing, McGwire refused to talk about it.
"I've moved on from it, and I wish the media would," he said. "It's pretty simple. I've made my statement in Washington. That's my statement, and when I left Washington, that's the last time I was ever going to talk about it, and that's really about it. I've moved on. I wish the media would move on from it."
The Cardinals unveiled the top 10 moments in the history of Busch Stadium on Friday night, and McGwire homers held the No. 10 and No. 2 spots. After a video clip of highlight No. 2, his 62nd home run from 1998, was shown, he spoke to the crowd.
It's all part of a weekend full of ceremonies, as the all-Busch Stadium team will be announced on Saturday and final-game festivities will be held on Sunday.
"I'm ecstatic they even thought about me taking the number down and being here for the weekend," McGwire said. "It's going to be outstanding. How can it not, with all the history here and how the fans are going to be treated to a fantastic new stadium next year? It's going to be an electrifying weekend, that's one of the reasons I stayed here. It's an electrifying city."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.