Four hundred and nine pages.

Eighty-three players.

One fatal injection into the heart of a national pastime’s history.

Baseball will survive the steroid-bloated Mitchell report, which was released Thursday with countless stories of cheating by players, compliance by owners and protection by the union.

Baseball will survive, but Roger Clemens will not.

If Barry Bonds is going to be shunned from Cooperstown and our hearts, then so must Clemens, a Hall of Fame arm who will now forever be remembered for his butt.

“McNamee injected Clemens in the buttocks four to six times with testosterone,” reads the report.

Baseball will survive, but Andy Pettitte will not.

If Mark McGwire is going to be rendered an outcast, then so must Pettitte, one of baseball’s most lovable pitchers who will now be remembered for the chill of the needle.

“He injected Pettitte with human growth hormone,” reads the report.

Baseball will survive, because as long as there are summer nights and bleacher seats, baseball will always survive.

But the players listed in the report, and the wondrous history surrounding them, will not.

Eric Gagne’s 84-consecutive-save streak?

Phony.

Kevin Brown and the magical 1998 San Diego Padres?

Questionable.

The fifth-longest consecutive-games streak of Miguel Tejada?

Forget it.

The renowned leadership of catcher Paul Lo Duca?

A sham.

Even the entire Yankee dynasty of the late 1990s was placed into doubt, the report citing several key players who bought or injected the juice, including Clemens, Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, David Justice and Mike Stanton.

The good part about the report is that it represents an important step toward a clean future.

The bad part is that, more than any other sport, baseball is steeped in its past.

It’s impossible to read the names without feeling cheated about that past, that rocketed Clemens fastball, that snarling Gagne save, that bombed Glaus home run.

Critics will say that the report’s evidence is flimsy at best, coming mostly from the records and recollections of a handcuffed former clubhouse attendant named Kirk Radomski and a scared former strength coach named Brian McNamee.

Guess what? This is the same sort of secondhand evidence that baseball used to shun Bonds before his perjury indictment.

Critics will say that because none of the players agreed to speak to the investigators, it is a one-sided report that cannot be taken seriously.

Guess what? Mark McGwire also refused to address steroids to officials, and look how we treated him.

The canceled checks and thank-you notes and anecdotes in the report are as close as we’ll ever get to understanding the truth of baseball’s steroid era.

With no testing until recently, with no cameras in clubhouse stalls where players allegedly injected themselves, we will never know exactly who did what.

The Mitchell report will have to be enough. And sadly, it’s more than enough.

It should be more than enough to keep not only Bonds and McGwire out of the Hall of Fame, but also Clemens.

It should be more than enough to make the Baseball Hall of Fame erect a new display of shame to remember those players who will be kept out of its doors because of steroids.

It should be more than enough to make Commissioner Bud Selig appoint a special drug enforcement office, as the report suggests.

And if union chief Donald Fehr fights the idea, then it should be enough for Selig to threaten to shut down the game again.

In their final summation, the Mitchell report authors pleaded for baseball officials to give amnesty to past offenders and look toward a cleaner future.

Maybe one day, but not now.

For baseball to experience a true cleansing, it must first spend time feeling the filth that its fans feel, the grime from a 409-page dirty book that, for now, has torn apart our bleacher seats and blown out the lights on our summer nights.


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