RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.
*Written in 2014.
*Be forewarned, this is going to be a long one. So grab a bottle of Lagavulin and a couple porterhouses. This is something I’ve wanted to write for a long time but put off because I knew it would be massive.
I’ve never been one to shy away from controversy. Hell, I wrote a highly successful blog for several years about politics and economics where I shared views that pissed off both sides of the spectrum. I’m not a stranger to speaking my mind, even if it challenges the system in power and the indoctrinated bullshit that warps the masses’ minds: detaching them from logic and reason. That being said, I am sure that this will probably be the most polarizing thing that I’ve published on this website.
To start, I am talking about the use of PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs) in baseball. My feelings and opinions carry over into other sports too but this is focused specifically on baseball, as it is the sport where the use of PEDs is the most demonized.
In fact, even if a player’s name is simply mentioned in the same sentence as PEDs or steroids, regardless of proof or evidence, that player is stuck with a very negative stigma for the rest of their life. In many cases, they are looked at like they’re Satan and regardless of whether there was proof to any accusations, the chances are pretty high that they will never get enough votes to get into the Hall of Fame. The reason given, by the sports writers who are the ones who vote on the Hall of Fame, is that these players have no integrity, character or morals and they are cheaters. And again, it doesn’t seem to matter if anything was even proven. Innocent until proven guilty? Not in baseball.
But why are PEDs the ultimate evil in baseball? Why are the athletes who have taken them or just been accused of taking them treated like they are Nazi war criminals?
2. Who Votes and the Process:
Well, the BBWAA (the Baseball Writers’ Association of America) along with the Veterans Committee are the groups that vote on the players who get put into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It is a complicated and confusing process like many things related to baseball but ultimately, the power of who gets into Cooperstown is held by the elite baseball writers. In case you didn’t know, Cooperstown is often used as the nickname of the Hall of Fame, as it the location of the Hall itself (in New York state) and it is where baseball is said to have begun.
As stated above, the writers have a lot of reasons for not voting these players in. Usually they cite cheating and lack of character. The reason they cite these things, is that they can, as there is a clause in the voting guidelines that states that “character” is one of the many factors to consider when voting a player into the Hall of Fame. I get where that is important but the fact of the matter is, what one considers to be “character” is subjective and if you are going to treat the use of PEDs as the ultimate evil and a complete destruction of one’s character, then you had better find a way to justify why some other really shitty people have made it into Cooperstown.
3. Contents of Character:
To start, let’s talk about Cap Anson, who was considered at one point to be the greatest first baseman of all-time. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in its first year in 1939. He is a legend and was a god to many. Looking at what he did for the game, while on the field, is worthy of the Hall. But what about his character?
Well, Anson was a racist piece of shit. He refused to take the field against black players in exhibition games in the 1880s. He even went as far as to use his star power and influence to strengthen the color barrier that existed in baseball until 1947. Sure, you could be an asshole and say something like, “Well, those were the times.” Well, fuck that, I could point to the ’90s and in regards to steroids say, “Well, those were the times.” It is a weak bullshit argument and anyone with a bit of sense knows that. Yeah, slavery was just “the times” too.
Speaking of racist pieces of shit, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis had a cool name but he was also a bigoted shithead. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1944. He is also the man who wrote the Hall’s clause about “character”. Kind of hypocritical as his character is polluted by the fact that he was another man instrumental in upholding the color barrier. What power did he have? Well, he was just the first Commissioner of Baseball from 1920-1944.
Another Hall of Famer, former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey (inducted in 1980), was the last team owner to integrate. He didn’t do so until 1959, 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. Yawkey passed on signing Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays even though his scouts overwhelmingly urged him to. He also hired managers Pinky Higgins and Joe Cronin, both of whom were known for being overtly racist.
To you Yankees fans sneering at your rival Red Sox and their lack of integration, you may want to hold back on your criticisms. Hall of Fame (inducted in 1971) and beloved general manager George Weiss also held off on integration for a long time. He didn’t integrate until 1955, being the 13th out of the 16 MLB teams to do so. In fact, in 1952, Weiss said that he would never allow a black man to wear a Yankees uniform. He went on to say, “We don’t want that sort of crowd. It would offend boxholders from Westchester to have to sit with niggers.”
Legends Tris Speaker (inducted in 1937) and Rogers Hornsby (inducted in 1942) were both card carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan. Speaking of the KKK, one of the greatest players of all-time, Ty Cobb (inducted in 1936), was also alleged to have been a member. Now alleged doesn’t mean that he was but since the PED witch-hunt doesn’t seem to understand the difference between alleged and proof, lets just say he was because that’s fair, right?
That’s not the only thing that makes Ty Cobb a giant piece of shit though. Out of the things we can prove, there was that time that he climbed up into the stands to assault a heckler that just so happened to be handicapped. Then there were multiple times where he deliberately drove his shoe’s spikes into the shins and knees of opposing players while sliding into base. I guess maiming your opponent is a good example of “character” and not “cheating”.
Smithsonian Magazine once pointed out that “Violent confrontations were a recurring theme in Cobb’s life,” and “stories of Cobb’s racial intolerance were well-documented.” Man, he sounds like a swell guy with impeccable character!
3B. Drunkards and Prohibition:
Let me stop using racism as an example, as I think I’ve beat that point pretty hard here. Let’s look at the guy who many, if not most, consider to be the greatest baseball player in history, Babe Ruth. Now sure, I may get some shit for tarnishing the Babe’s legacy but all I am doing here is pointing out the facts. Facts that were well known about the guy when he was inducted in 1936.
Babe Ruth was an alcoholic, overeating, womanizing machine. He also had a shitty attitude most of the time and was so high on his own ego that he had no idea how to treat those in his life. He cheated on his first wife, repeatedly. He left her for one of his mistresses. He probably cheated on her. Hell, he probably cheated on those he was cheating with. He was a big alpha dog and he had to do what big alpha dogs do.
He also drank himself into a stupor repeatedly and was often times shit-hammered when he was on the field. Could you imagine the uproar if a player constantly showed up drunk for games in today’s world? He wouldn’t be allowed to play, let alone have the opportunity to even attempt to have a Hall of Fame worthy career. How many times did Ruth put himself and others at risk in a game, just because he liked to play three sheets to the wind?
Also, look at the era when Babe Ruth was doing this. It was during Prohibition, when alcohol was outlawed. Just as PEDs and steroids are outlawed now, alcohol was a big no-no in that time. The thing is, everyone knew Ruth was a drunkard but no one cared. The sports writers may have criticized it here and there but ultimately his legacy on the field is what was most remembered.
Then there were Hall of Famers Hack Wilson (inducted in 1979) and Grover Cleveland Alexander (inducted in 1938) who were both known drunkards. Wilson broke the law during Prohibition and even passed out on the field and in the dugout during games. Alexander was believed to have been inebriated when he closed out Game 7 of the 1926 World Series. Being a big drinker myself, I lift my glass to that. Being a responsible adult and a lifelong baseball fan, I shake my head and again, like with Ruth, think about how horrible that would go over in today’s world and how both guys would be out of the MLB and forced into substance abuse programs. And with it being the Prohibition Era in both cases and Ruth’s, it puts their “character” violations on par with the PED users of the last two decades.
Moving on past alcohol, let’s look at other drug issues in relation to Hall of Famers.
There was Dennis Eckersley (inducted in 2004), who battled alcoholism and was identified by a convicted drug dealer as a regular customer of his that bought cocaine. Of course, a blind eye was turned, he was inducted into Cooperstown and has been a baseball analyst for quite some time.
Brewers great Paul Molitor (also inducted in 2004) was known to be a cocaine and marijuana user early on in his career. He was also big on the party scene and at one point, got so coked up that police were called out to his home to see if he was even alive. Pretty hypocritically, Molitor opposes Alex Rodriguez being inducted into the Hall of Fame. I guess cocaine is okay but PEDs are the devil.
One of my favorite pitchers of all-time, Ferguson Jenkins (inducted in 1991), a Chicago Cubs great, was arrested in 1980 for 3.0 grams of cocaine, 2.2 grams of hashish and 1.75 grams of marijuana found in his suitcase by customs agents. Jenkins was immediately suspended but that suspension only lasted two weeks. He was not punished further by the MLB and he went into Cooperstown, although it is believed that the drug issue delayed his induction. Regardless, he still made it.
In 1976, Orlando Cepeda (inducted in 1999) was arrested for drug smuggling. He attempted to bring 150 lbs. of marijuana into Puerto Rico. His punishment was ten months in a Florida prison. However, he was also arrested a second time for allegedly pulling a gun on a man. Once he got out of prison, he was instructed not to return to Puerto Rico, as the mafia would kill him.
Before moving on from drugs, let me just throw out some names of Hall of Famers who illegally used amphetamines at some point during their careers: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and several others. Are we prepared to kick these legends out to make an example to the PED and steroid users out there?
Other than substance abuse issues, there were also cheaters who made the Hall of Fame. Why is this important? Well because most of the people with the voting power consider PEDs and steroids to be cheating. Well, let’s look at some cheaters who made it to Cooperstown.
First there is Gaylord Perry (inducted in 1991) who confessed to cheating. In his autobiography Me and the Splitter, he admitted to using saliva, sweat, mud, Vaseline and KY jelly to doctor the baseballs that he pitched. Did he really earn those two Cy Young Awards and five All-Star appearances? Did he cheat his way to that no hitter? We may never know for sure.
Then there was pitcher Don Sutton (inducted in 1998) who was often times called “Black and Decker” because he was infamous for defacing baseballs with sandpaper and other objects. He’s gone on to making a nice broadcasting career for himself after his baseball career that saw him become a four-time All-Star and an All-Star MVP.
Whitey Ford (inducted in 1974), regarded by many as one of the best pitchers of all-time, defaced baseballs by using his wedding ring. He also planted mud pies on the mound that he used to alter the ball. He was also known to use something he called “gunk”, which was said to be a mixture of baby oil, turpentine and resin. Ten All-Star games, six World Series championships, a World Series MVP, a Cy Young Award and a retired number later, no one seems to care about this guy’s penchant for winning by any means necessary – even if that means to win by cheating.
Then there is famous and beloved manager Leo Durocher (inducted in 1994). He managed the 1951 Giants who pulled off an amazing comeback at the end of the season. How did they do it? They mastered the art of sign-stealing. It wasn’t just any sort of sign-stealing though. You see, they developed a pretty elaborate system of illegal sign-stealing. What made it illegal? The tactics used in accordance to what baseball deems as okay and not okay. There is a thin line there but regardless of how you feel about sign-stealing and how far one can go with it, by most of those with the power of the pen, what Durocher and the 1951 Giants did was cheating. Cheating for him and legend Willie Mays, in this case, was good enough to get both of them into Cooperstown without mountains of disdain.
3E. General Pieces of Crap:
Other than racists, drunks, drug users and cheaters, there are also Hall of Famers who are just pieces of crap as people. The two that stick out the most in modern times are Roberto Alomar (inducted in 2011) and the late Kirby Puckett (inducted in 2001).
Roberto Alomar was accused of domestic violence by his wife, Puerto Rican model Maripily Rivera. She alleged that she was the victim of spousal assault three times. She told the tale of Alomar threatening her and pulling a knife on her. She also claimed that Alomar gave her HIV, as did a former ex-girlfriend. All of this was out in the open before Alomar was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Now while none of it was proven, in regards to PEDs, proof doesn’t really matter.
The late Kirby Puckett, who died in 2006 from a stroke, was deemed a model citizen for the majority of his career and won the Branch Rickey Award in 1993 for his lifetime of community service work. However, even seemingly good people have flaws.
After his retirement, a lot of strange things came to the forefront. To start, Puckett was accused of multiple incidents of violence against women. In 2002, a woman alleged that his wife threatened to kill her over an affair she had had with Puckett. That same month, another woman claimed that Puckett had shoved her around in her condominium on multiple occasions during their 18 year secret relationship. A few months later, Puckett was accused of groping a woman in restaurant bathroom. He was charged with false imprisonment, fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and fifth-degree assault. He was found not guilty of all accounts but had to relinquish his role as Minnesota Twins executive vice president. Additionally, Puckett’s wife told Sports Illustrated that he held a gun to her head and once tried to strangle her with an electrical cord. Dude sounds like a real fucking winner and Hall of Fame worthy in that character department.
4. The Hypocrisy:
Not all of these players that I’ve discussed have been voted in by the BBWAA and not all of the character flaws I’ve described were public knowledge at the time of their induction. However, does that mean that they should stay?
If a big part of what makes a player Hall of Fame worthy is “character”, should not all of these names come under serious scrutiny? Should there not be a system in place that allows those with the power of voting to go back and examine a Hall of Famer’s character and their inclusion in Cooperstown if some big character flaw comes to light after the fact? Because what are the rules telling us now? That you can be a big shithead and as long as you get away with it before the voting process or you are lucky enough for them to turn a bling eye, you’re considered an okay person worthy of universal admiration? It’s bullshit.
You can’t hold the players of this era to a standard that was never upheld before steroids and PEDs came into the mix. You can’t all of a sudden go “yeah okay, this issue right here, this is the big one, this is totally evil” when you’ve turned a blind eye to every major character flaw some legend before this issue committed. I mean, how much of a piece of garbage was Ty Cobb? Yet you’re going to shit on Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire because they “cheated” and have questionable “character”?
The biggest hypocrisy of all, is it is these baseball writers that stir the fucking pot and get the people fired up over this issue. They’re the ones serving the hate-flavored Kool-Aid and hammering this anger into the minds of Americans too daft to put down the newspaper or turn off the Internet, television and radio. And why is this the biggest hypocrisy?
Well because when this shit was really going on, steroids and PEDs I mean, many of these reporters and sportswriters were aware but said nothing. These passionate and boisterous voices who want to burn Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun at the stake, were exposed to the truth before the truth came out into the light. Now I am not accusing all sportswriters, as most probably didn’t know but there are many who did and said nothing about it. Why are they so passionate now? Well because that’s the trend and if they yell and point the finger, they absolve themselves of the guilt and the blame. Besides, most of them don’t have the balls to say what’s real. It’s easier to join the crowd and follow the trend, as opposed to going against it and being honest.
At least Buster Olney took some responsibility for what he felt was his part in it. In a 2006 New York Times op-ed piece, he wrote:
I could have done a better job of reporting how people in baseball thought the game was being changed by performance-enhancing drugs . . . I had a role in baseball’s institutional failure during what will be forever known as the Steroid Era. But I was only part of the problem, because just about everyone in baseball is to blame.
These arguments about “cheating” and “advantages” can’t be taken seriously unless both sides realize that people in baseball always cheat and each generation has an advantage over the previous one.
I’ve written in previous posts about the secret code and hidden language within baseball. Everyone in some way cheats, the thing is, there are ways to cheat and ways not to cheat but it has always been a sport where cheating is at the forefront. And that’s any sport really. Every time a manager comes out to bitch about a bad call that he knows was a good call, that is a form of cheating. Every time a pitcher sneaks some substance onto a ball, that is cheating. Every time a player knows he was out but argues with the umpire that he was safe, that’s cheating. You take what you can get and that is all a part of the game. To bitch about cheating as some ultimate evil, means that you have to demonize just about everything in baseball. These people cry about the integrity and the soul of the sport but apparently have no idea what that is.
As far as PEDs and steroids giving these modern players advantages, let’s talk about that.
5. Now and the Future:
Do PEDs and steroids give the players an advantage? Signs certainly point to yes.
However, playing in the modern era in general is advantageous over playing in previous eras. Why? Modern medicine, other supplements that aren’t illegal and general knowledge on health, diet and training. PEDs or not, we have never had better athletes than what we have right now and for the most part, this is due to their training regimen, their strict diets and the amazing doctors and trainers that every major league team staffs.
Tommy John surgery has come along and extended the careers of many pitchers, does this mean that they have inflated career stats because their career’s would have ended sooner in the 1920s? I think it is a ridiculous proposal but one could theoretically make that argument.
When it comes to PEDs, why are they bad? The main reason is because they are illegal. But going back a few sections in this article, so was cocaine, marijuana, hashish and alcohol during Prohibition but the legends who partook in those vices have a place in Cooperstown.
There are plenty of legal supplements, when compared to PEDs, should probably be illegal as well. At some point, they probably will be but that doesn’t matter all that match because science is always making new miracles and baseball players who want that extra boost will cut corners and do what they feel they need to do. I’m not saying that any of this is right on their part, I’m just saying that it is reality. In fact, I don’t know why more of them don’t seek out the still legal versions of performance-enhancers instead of taking the risk of getting caught with something outlawed by their sport.
And moving forward, the future is always bright and new medicine and new medical techniques will be implemented as time goes on. In a few years, athletes may be using nano-machines and other things that seem like science fiction to repair their bodies and heal them faster. Hell, we could be on the cusp of an era where medical science allows players to play well into their forties or even longer. What then? With a long enough career, we may get a guy that hits 1000 career home runs. I guess we’ll be able to stop worrying about Barry Bonds and the proverbial asterisk. Or will we stop worrying? This brings up a whole other argument now.
The point is, the world changes and baseball, whether it wants to or not, has to adapt to these changes. It doesn’t mean it tarnishes records of old, it just means that we, as human beings, will always enhance ourselves and our society. We will always find better ways to do things and to improve. Baseball can’t escape this truth.
Going forward, players are going to look for things that enhance them. Hopefully science provides us with things that won’t harm their bodies long-term and lead to illness and premature death.
I’m not calling for Babe Ruth to be kicked out of the Hall of Fame. Hell, Ty Cobb can stay for all I care. Frankly, the Hall of Fame has become more of a political shit show than a true place to honor the game’s greats. Besides, if a guy like Pete Rose isn’t in there because he gambled a little, I can’t take this whole thing seriously anyway.
I’m not saying that, shit show aside, it isn’t an honor to go into the Hall of Fame but if they are going to be managed like a fascist dictatorship by hypocritical sportswriters calling way too many shots, I really don’t care who is in there and who isn’t. Because frankly, there are a lot of deserving players that have missed entry and a lot who probably don’t need to be there. I’m not going to get into specifics on that because there are a few pieces I plan to write about that in the future.
The thing is, the people voting have tremendously huge bugs up their asses about the Steroid Era, something they helped perpetuate until the cat was out of the bag and they had to flip the script, absolving themselves of their responsibility and trashing the sport in order to save their own hides like a bunch of weasels. I’m not trying to generalize and blame all baseball writers but there are a lot of them that fit the bill and they know who they are. I guess they can seemingly live with themselves but ultimately, they are bigger pieces of shit than the PED users they are trying to trash and demonize, in my honest opinion anyway.
You want to call them addicts? Well, fine. But then you have to call Babe Ruth and Paul Molitor addicts. You want to call them cheaters? Also fine. But then you have to call Whitey Ford and Gaylord Perry cheaters. You want to attack their character? Fine as well. But then you should also attack everyone else that I have mentioned in section three of this article. You can’t just pick and choose who you think is a shithead and you certainly shouldn’t ostracize someone who has either done nothing wrong or that you don’t have any proof of wrongdoing. Many of these writers with the right to vote have refused to fill out ballots because they claim that they don’t know who is clean. Well, if you don’t know, vote as if they didn’t do anything. In America, one is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Besides, look at all the people with poor character who got in and I don’t see any baseball writers crying over the fact that they voted in Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb or Kirby Puckett.
And even if a player is guilty, they are being held to a standard of persecution that baseball has never really exercised before. Going beyond just the Hall of Fame, guys like Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun are booed out of stadiums by angry fans and that is their right, as we have freedom of speech and expression in this country, but that hatred is pretty unfounded if you ask me and these people are surrendering to emotion and indoctrination and not employing logic and reason. I get that people are upset about this but throwing an object at a player’s head on the field is inexcusable.
Besides, professional athletes are just people. That may irk some people to read but it is true. I’m sorry that you angry entitled crybabies don’t have millions like A-Rod but you also probably can’t play baseball for shit. Anyway, athletes like all human beings, make human mistakes. How many knuckleheads in an uproar in the stands have never done drugs or smoked weed? Fuck that, how many baseball writers have lived sober lives? People make mistakes, does that mean it is worth condemning them for life? Absolutely not. Sure, some people don’t learn from their mistakes. Others do however and frankly, a lot of these guys being condemned have never been proven to have made any mistakes.
What’s the solution?
Stop being crybaby pussies and move forward. Does Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Mike Piazza and Alex Rodriguez deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? You bet your ass they do. If you disagree, you apparently didn’t watch them play or you’re prepared to kick out all the Hall of Famers who have exhibited bad character, which is probably most of them.