It was when I traded in my Cardinals jersey for the blue and red Cubs uniform. I was finally old enough to be able to play with the 12 year olds in Little League. Before you think this has no significance to the story, it does. I promise.
This was around the time Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire captivated the country with the home run record race throughout the summer of 1998.
Naturally, at my age though, I didn’t realize there were performance-enhancing substances behind the competition, excitement and hysteria. You would show up to a game and be surrounded by these athletes who took shape as gods with the ability to make a ball go over the fence. They were perfect, or so we thought.
As we fast forward a couple decades with a tell-all book via Jose Canseco, professional baseball is still being played. But now there is a constant dark shadow blanketing the sport. It all has to do with steroids.
The steroid era is almost impossible to pinpoint on a timetable. It’s roughly from the late 80’s to the early 2000’s for those of you keeping score at home. And despite what anyone says, I have no idea — 100 percent, at least — who took steroids and who didn’t and you don’t either.
For those of you who claim you can tell specifically on the body of a player who has used or is using, I have two words for you: Dee Gordon. Gordon weighs more than me (I won’t reveal the actual number because I’m a lady) but at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, he’s puny. And he was popped for taking performance enhancers, which is a completely different topic because, let’s face it, having huge muscles doesn’t mean you can hit a baseball. There are different forms of steroids, and fans who try and go on a witch hunt when players violate the drug policy, need to educate themselves on what exactly a performance enhancing drug is.
What’s the deal with the Baseball Hall of Fame and its relationship with steroids and PEDs? Well, it’s a tumultuous relationship to say the least, and while nobody (that we know of) has been elected to Cooperstown who has been proven to be linked to steroids, like Ken Rosenthal reports, the wall is crumbling in regards to letting those individuals through those doors.
And that’s a good thing.
Rosenthal spoke to a former player who referred to Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez who had recently been inducted in the Hall of Fame.
“Two of the three did steroids, so I don’t understand this process,” the former player said, referring to Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez, whose use of performance-enhancing drugs is suspected by many, but not confirmed.
The former player also asked why Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens weren’t there if that were the case.
To be honest, I’m quite glad I don’t have the responsibility of voting for members to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not because it’s not an honor or a privilege; I don’t think I could be confident enough to say a known steroid user does not belong in the Hall. Bonds was a phenomenal athlete and after being surrounded by the sport as long as I have, embracing this particular era seems like an inevitable part of baseball.
I worry by the time the Hall opens its arms to these players, they will have fallen off the ballot. The asterisk being put next to these athletes may always be there, but you can’t act like Bonds didn’t put on a show, or the 1998 home run race didn’t draw a crowd, or these did not manage to stay wonderful memories in your childhood.
It’s time to embrace this movement before it’s too late — because it happened, and it will always be a historic part of America’s Pastime.
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