Baseball’s Hall of Shame
Just when I thought it was safe to dip my toes into the turbulent waters of admiring a baseball hero, the “steroids” shark emerged and tried to rip them off once again.
Last winter, just after the San Francisco Chronicle printed grand jury testimony about the Balco steroids case, I wrote an article that lamented, after four generations in my family of fathers taking sons to baseball games, the records of my father’s hero (Babe Ruth) and mine and my sons’ favorite (Hank Aaron) were about to be broken. The culprit then was juice-induced Barry Bonds. My not-to-realistic solution was for major league pitchers to walk Bonds every time he appeared at the plate. Fortuitously, the problem was averted, at least for this season, because Bonds has been out with a knee problem.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress jumped into the ‘roid-rage fracass after anti-hero Jose Canseco published his tell-all book about his steroid use and those he helped or witnessed as they cooked up their performance-enhancing recipes. Many of us were impressed when Rafael Palmeiro shook his finger at the congressional committee and said the “n” word….never. He said he “never, ever” took steroids and wanted to further the committee’s work by teaching young people about the dangers of this illegal substance.
We watched this season as the quiet, seemingly dignified Palmeiro did something only three other players had ever done before: garner 3,000 hits and 500 home runs (the others were Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray). What a milestone to celebrate!
Just as I put toes of appreciation back into the water, Palmeiro was busted for steroids and drew a suspension. His wimpy “explanation” made me, and I’m sure anyone else who bought his D.C. performance, cringe with disgust.
I wonder if history might remember Canseco as the “hero” who finally shone the light on what most people already suspected? I wonder, too, why there was no Woodward-and-Bernstein-in- waiting baseball writer to expose Major League Baseball’s reluctance to actually do anything about the corrupt steroid shark (maybe Canseco could have been the perfect “deep vein”)? Why wasn’t anyone alarmed as Bonds bulked up, his hat size increasing two or three sizes? His head grew, for god’s sake! And, then he began to hit home runs at such a pace that made another steroid specimen, Mark McGuire, look anemic? Or see former Chicago Cub superstar Sammy Sosa fumbling around in Baltimore this season, a mere shadow of his former muscle-bulging self?
I’ve been hoping that Bonds, will suffer from a slight burst of decency and retire so that we don’t have to spend 180 plus days agonizing over his potential to surpass Ruth’s (714), and Aaron’s (755) home run records. C’mon Barry, give the game a break.
Why does this issue really matter? In the grand scheme of life, it probably doesn’t much. But, for someone who had the joy of hosting a son and two grandsons at several major league ball games last month, it matters. I want them and future generations to enjoy the only team sport without a clock, to revel in the stats that baseball fans crave…and for those statistics to truly mean something. We need heroes anywhere we can find them in life. They don’t have to be perfect, but we should expect them to be honest. We, the fans, deserve the chance to swim in the idealistic waters of sporting admiration without the fear of constant disappointment.