I’ve been a baseball fan since I was a little kid. In grade school I was the kid that knew all the stats, the geek that went back into the record books and learned about all the great Red Sox players from the old days. I desperately wanted a copy of “The Baseball Encyclopedia”, instead, I just incurred a lot of overdue book fines with the copy that the library had. I scored the games on mimeographed pages my stepfather ran off at school, and read the Sporting News to keep up with box scores of games I’d missed. My parents let me stay home from school to watch the 1978 one game playoff with the Yankees in which Bucky Dent broke my heart. I drifted away from the Sox, and the game, in the early ‘80s, but came back with a vengeance. The ’86 Series again crushed me and broke my heart, but I was learning that that’s what it meant to be a Red Sox fan.
I was disgusted by the cancelled World Series. I was disgusted by the whining players and salaries growing out of control. In the mid-nineties, I stopped watching the games on tv, (though as we were part of a group that bought season tickets for the Cincinnati Reds, I still went to games).
Then Mark McGwire came along and brought me back.
I actually remember waking up during the season when he was going after Roger Maris’ record and wondering if McGwire had homered during the late games. It was the first time I had had baseball on the brain, let alone had it as my first waking thought, since I was a little kid. It was absolutely magical that fall (Even Joe Buck idiotically asking McGwire for a hug after the homer didn’t diminish the magic much).
Sosa hit over 60 homers for the next two seasons.
Then Bonds hit 73.
I remember sitting with my buddies at Riverfront/Cinergy and looking at Ken Caminiti. Our seats were five rows back from third base. We’re all pretty big guys, but he didn’t look human.
Now it all makes sense. How stupid were we to look for juiced baseballs?
I think that all of the “superstars” in the late nineties cheated by using illegal substances to make themselves physically stronger and make their reflexes quicker. I think those home run records are bogus, and I think McGwire was the only one smart enough to see that testing would soon prove it to the world so he got out in time. The shame of it is that there is nothing that can be done to make the whole thing right, until someone comes along with the natural ability and strength to break those records without using steroids. (Um, file that under ‘never happen’). The worst part of it is that people who live in the world of major league baseball had to know. All of America was asking why so many guys were hitting fifty or more homers, why guys who had never been buff power hitters were suddenly hitting forty, and MLB came back with things like “well, the baseballs aren’t juiced”. Shame on MLB for not banning steroids sooner, for not testing sooner, and shame on the union for getting in the way of everything good for the game and good for the health of the individual players.
That said, let’s move on and play ball. I really don’t see what good getting congress involved will do for anyone, except the little unknown congressmen who will use it to get attention. Shame on them too. Where were they when Sosa was hitting 60 homers on an annual basis, and claiming that his only supplement was Flintstones chewables?