by Roland S. Martin
By their decision not to induct anyone on the ballot this year into the baseball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Writers Association of America simply showed they are a bunch of hypocrites who refuse to admit their culpability in what is called the “Steroid Era of Baseball.”
Owners, writers, Hall of Fame members and the media have been quick to denounce Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro as nothing but a bunch of juiced-up ballplayers who set astronomical records due to being on steroids.
And while they were doing it, members of the media were selling newspapers at a record clip and saw their TV and radio ratings shoot through the roof. In 1998, during the famous McGwire-Sosa homerun chase, I worked as a radio reporter at KRLD-AM in Dallas/Fort Worth and we would break into coverage to play their at-bats. Yes, the home station of the Texas Rangers was focusing on what was happening with two ballplayers from Chicago and St. Louis.
That’s how wrapped up the nation was in the homerun chase to break the single-season homerun record of New York Yankee great, Roger Maris.
While they were doing it, baseball owners were cashing fat checks, ecstatic that fans were returning to their grownup playgrounds after the 1994 strike crippled the game.
Baseball was sort of like Miami during the cocaine heyday of the 1980s: sky high with happiness over the money rolling in, but unwilling to admit that it was being earned through dirty means.
Do I think these players and others cheated? Absolutely. But we can’t be so sanctimonious to act as if they never existed, and the records they set don’t matter. Baseball has never struck them from the record books or added an asterisk beside each name.
And not a single owner donated all of the money they made for merchandising, tickets and concessions to a charity.
Maybe the sportswriters were trying to make a statement, not wanting to induct Bonds or Clemens into the Hall of Fame on their first ballot. OK, fine. But I do believe they belong in the Hall due to their stellar careers. There is no denying their athletic greatness, and of the players in their era, they were the best of the best.
I find it interesting that sportswriters today would slam these guys for steroids but find it cute when telling stories of Gaylord Perry doctoring the ball to gain an edge against hitters. He was a well-known cheat but was inducted into the Hall of Fame. If cheating is cheating, he should be persona non grata.
Perry isn’t the only player with character issues in the hall, and this isn’t about singling them out. It is about how we conveniently call some players cheats, while others are lovable characters.
What is even sadder is a guy like Mike Piazza, who has never been caught up in any steroid drama, has suffered from the whispers that he might have used illegal substances. So what is he supposed to do, disprove a lie?
Baseball fans and Hall of Fame voters are going to have to come to terms with the reality that the “Steroid Era” of baseball existed. We can’t wipe it away, pray it away or hope it’s gone. It happened. It was real. We saw it with our own eyes.
It’s simply unfortunate that when the juicing was going on in locker rooms nationwide, owners, the players union and the media chose to close their eyes. Maybe had they spoken up, we wouldn’t be facing this dilemma today.
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and author of the book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as Originally Reported by Roland S. Martin.” Please visit his website at RolandSMartin.com. To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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