Steroid cheaters should be tossed
Finally, it seems Major League Baseball is coming to grips with steroids. It took a federal investigation to bring this about, but at least people are talking about it now.
And what may be America's Dirtiest Game will at least make some attempt to clean itself up. But while steroids have made a huge impact over the past few years, baseball has had other pharmaceutical secrets.
And why not? Drug tests are rarer than no-hitters.
You never hear about it, but the use of amphetamines was once (and may still be, for all I know) as big a part of the game as the rosin bag and pine tar.
When I began working in the clubhouse of the Triple-A Portland Beavers back in the mid-1960s, players called them 'greenies' Ñ because of their color. I wouldn't want to guess what percentage of players gulped greenies prior to games, but I can tell you I served a lot of coffee in the clubhouse as players looked for something to melt the pills and help them kick in quicker.
I can remember asking a noted pitcher about the situation in 1967.
'Well, when you bend over to pick up that towel, you may miss,' he said. 'Nobody will notice. You just reach down and pick it up again. We don't get that second chance. We want every advantage we can have. If the other guy is using them, I want to use them.'
The greenies weren't always that color. But they were dependable in that they speeded up players Ñ or at least helped them think they were speeded up. They also led to rampant alcohol use as players went out and drank after games just to wear off the effects of the pills enough so they could sleep. The next day, the hangover was so bad they needed a greenie to help them play again.
That was a nice cycle of behavior.
When I covered minor-league ball in the 1970s, some players were doing cocaine, but the amphetamines were still rampant. Players called them 'beans' Ñ and many 'beaned up' prior to games.
I'm not around players much anymore and have no way of knowing if that stuff is still going on. I smile a little, though, when I hear Hall of Famers moan about steroid use by modern players. Hey guys, any of you ever take a greenie? I bet some of you did.
Steroid use may be harder on your body than amphetamines, but I'm not a doctor and won't play one in the paper. I believe evidence indicates the steroids are much better performance enhancers.
Baseball has kept Pete Rose out of the sport for a long time because he bet on games. OK, what Rose did was horrible. Go ahead and punish him. But to me, Rose probably didn't affect the outcome of too many games with his wagering. Maybe Ñ but I doubt it.
What I do think is that players who use performance-enhancing drugs have had a much bigger impact on the game than anything that got Rose banned for life.
All those steroid-aided home runs have won a lot of games. They've decided pennant races. They've meant huge dollars. Baseball is in a difficult spot here, because even with testing, finding human growth hormones and steroids is a very difficult task. The cheaters are usually one step ahead.
I think we've seen that the hardest war to win is the war on drugs.
But there is merit in trying. And I say if we find players who knowingly cheated by using illegal drugs, that goes to the very core of the integrity of the game and they should get a punishment every bit as harsh as the one Rose got.