THE GREAT GAME of baseball
has weathered many storms in the past. The fans, the
true “owners” of baseball, must hold the commissioner, the team owners,
the players and their union accountable as we move into another season. The 2005
season may well be a watershed for the game. Our heads are out of the sand and
looking at a high sky that, hopefully, bodes well for the future of baseball.
UNNATURAL DISASTER THREATENS BASEBALL
With Major League baseball's
governance asleep at the wheel, our beloved National Pastime
is being swept away by 'Hurricane Barry'
DYNAMIC DUO: With blatant
disregard for the legacy of baseball's greatest,
Big Mac and Slammin' Sammy perpetrated a monumental
fraud on our national past time in 1998.
A low-pressure system and tropical depression have
been forming off the shores of Major League Baseball
since the mid-90s. The labor dispute and cancellation
of the World Series in 1994 threatened to put the game
in the tank unless the incredibly mismanaged National
Pastime could find a way to win back the hearts
and minds of the fans.
OF INTEREST: Is Bud a commissioner or an owner? The
solution for Bud Selig, club owner masquerading as the Commissioner
of Baseball, and the rest of baseball’s entrepreneurs, both management
and union, evolved over the next three years and
emerged in 1998 as a quest
for the Holy Grail of baseball records, Maris’ 61* home runs in
At the time we were so caught up in the frenzy of the battle between McGwire
and Sosa, and the possibility of actually being around and seeing the
records of Ruth and Maris go by the way-side to not one, but two contemporary
stars, that the tropical depression morphed into a tropical storm on it’s
way to becoming a named hurricane.
in Florida we depend on our National Hurricane
Center team to maintain vigilance over significant
natural threats to our shores. Even when
it is the most balmy and beautiful late summer
day we turn to the NHC just in case something might
be out there brewing. We know that we need
that vigilance and advance warning to prepare and
provide ourselves’ every
opportunity for safety and survival. Tragically,
baseball is now facing a disaster, and baseball governance and the Player’s
Union have ignored their responsibility to protect
BONDS before juice,
above, and after, below.
Not a natural
mind you, but a chemically enhanced unnatural disaster
of major hurricane proportion which threatens the
integrity and legacy of the game. Hurricane
Barry is not suddenly blasting baseball like a
tornado on the Kansas plain. There have been harbingers
to this unnatural disaster since the
early '90s in the form of Hurricanes Jose, Mark,
Ken, and others, who did indeed perpetrate fraud
on the American baseball fan and the game,
but are now only distant memories.
riding the waves of “juice” and cork, is also out there,
but does not seem to be an imminent threat. Barry has been churning
and howling for four
years now and is scheduled to make landfall in
April. Selig, his band of owners and the Player’s Union seem to
have just now sighted the storm and are frantically
trying to save face by putting out warnings
that are, in reality, way too late to prevent the
inevitable farcicality of the Ruth and Aaron chase.
are some who would suggest that chemically
is now “part of the game” in the new
millennium and that the winds and rain of Barry
will dissipate and cause little or no damage.
fact is, there isn’t enough duct
tape and plywood in all of Selig’s franchises, including Steinbrenner’s
Big Apple, to prevent the disgrace and scandal
that is about to be perpetrated on the game by
you closely examine the currents, clouds, radar
and satellite imagery the facts become clear.
• Through 1994, a player hit 50 or more
home runs in a season just 18 times. Since
1994, there have been an amazing
fifteen 50-homer seasons, and in the late 1990s
an explosion of power-related records infused baseball,
though no one seemed to put this together
with the changing physical stature of the players.
More than any other sport, baseball is numbers-driven.
Fans relish numbers, and if they're
tainted, there's a sense of consumer fraud
Barry Bonds admitted that he “unknowingly” used banned steroids
and performance- enhancing substances while under
the tutelage of his friend and fitness/nutritional
consultant Greg Anderson.
After an off-season with Anderson and BALCO’s Victor Conte, Bonds
emerged, according to the team media guide, 18
pounds heavier (in reality more like 30 pounds),
solid as a rock — and a better hitter than he
had been in his entire life. Bonds went from never
hitting more than 49 home runs in a season to jacking
73 after the Anderson-Conte off-season
• Bonds, much like McGwire, experienced this incredible
surge of power in his twilight years when most
ballplayers are fading away. From 1986 through 1999, he hit three homers beyond
the 450 ft.
mark. In the last five years he has belted 26 over
450 ft. How many that were caught on the warning track prior to the BALCO juice
been sailing over the fence since?
Baseball is obsessed with statistics and records—and
the "purity" of those records— even though controversies
have risen over the ever-changing height of the pitcher's mound, the
of the "juiced" ball, the short left fields of the old "bandbox" stadiums,
etc. Through it all, the stats remain the Holy
Grail of Major League Baseball. The lifetime home run record is the
most hallowed record in
all of sports. What makes baseball different from
other sports is that fans can compare generations of players. However,
that historical linkage
and legacy, the connection between eras, has been
jeopardized by the “juicing” of
the players not the baseball.
Grand Old Game’s integrity degenerates
to that of pro wrestling as team owners and players cash in.
Baseball has survived strikes
and the cancellation of the 1994 World Series,
Pete Rose’s gambling addiction and the
Black Sox scandal. This great game’s epitaph has been written
before and it has survived. However, Hurricane Barry may well prove
to be a Category 5 which rips off the roof and uproots the stately 129
year-old trees of the game, and threatens not only the Grand Old Game’s
integrity but also its public memory and continuity
with the past.
BABE RUTH, left,
and Jimmy Fox were two of the game's greatest
is that past that we are celebrating with WIWAG and the memory of the players represented by the
Booming Bats of the '50s. It is inevitable,
if Bonds chooses, that he will surpass “The Babe” and go
on to capture the all time home run record from “Hammerin’ Hank.” It
is also inevitable that Bonds will never be as
beloved by baseball or its fans as Ruth and Aaron.
He has demanded to be accepted for who he
is, and so be it.
Hank Aaron faced mixed feelings, fueled by racism
during his quest for Ruth’s record. Bonds, with his defiant and
ever combative demeanor, will tartly remind everyone that race is also
a factor in the public’s perception of him. In reality, the biggest
problem Barry Bonds has is Barry Bonds. The one act of gracious professionalism
that might save Bonds in the eyes of those who love baseball would be
to retire before he breaks Aaron’s record.
With the promise of
drug testing, the assumption that he is no longer juicing and the tendency
for most teams to pitch around him, it is unlikely that he would hit
the 53 homers this year that he needs to surpass Hank. A gesture like
retiring after this season before eclipsing Aaron’s record would
certainly be out of character for him, but might
save face for baseball and possibly even, to some
degree, endear him to the fans and the legacy
of the game.
When Bonds entered the league in
1986, he was a wiry phenom listed at 6-foot-1,
185 pounds. In the 2001 season, he was 6-2 and
pushing 230 — a linebacker in
a baseball uniform. Much of Hank Aaron’s success as a hitter resulted from
the bat whip-action generated by his naturally powerful forearms and wrists.
He attributed the development of the strength in his wrists to carrying ice blocks
working as a teenager in Mobile, Alabama. His natural talent and perennially
excellent physical condition contributed to his productivity well into his late
The strong men of the 50s, like Big Ted Kluszewski,
generated their power from natural God-given physiques,
hard work and determination. Ted’s highest
homerun output was in 1954 when he lead the Major Leagues with 49.
Ralph Kiner’s sinewy, but powerful arms are evident in this picture
of him picking out his lumber for the day. He played only 10 seasons, but hit
homers, one about every 14 times at bat.
The natural strength in Willie Mays’ arms is evident in this picture of
him waiting his turn in the batting cage at the Polo Grounds. A tremendous all-around
athlete and ball player, his 660 homeruns was surpassed by the pharmaceutically-enhanced
Bonds last year.
Willie had many great years, but hit 50 or more homers only
once. Babe Ruth’s lifestyle was as legendary as his power and impact on
the game of baseball. Probably the most beloved ball player of all time, he set
the offensive standard to which all generations of players have been compared.
It is projected that Bonds will surpass “The Bambino’s” 714
round-trippers sometime in May.
SAMMY: Juice plus cork equals bogus records.
Sammy Sosa went nine years without ever hitting
more than 40 home runs in a season. In the four
seasons spanning 1998 to 2001 he hit 66, 63, 50
and 64. Sosa (at near right) was a slim, 165 pound,
jet-footed White Sox rookie in 1989 who morphed
into the pumped-up 230-pound Mr. Olympus (at far
right, above) in 2001. It is suspected
by many that “Slammin’” Sammy’s
run for Maris’s single season home run record against McGwire
in1998 was enhanced not only by steroids, but also
a corked bat.
STEROIDS AND THE HALL OF FAME
PART II: March 8,
There have been many critics of Congress for focusing on dangerous illegal
steroid use among baseball players and attempting to get to the bottom of the
a formal Congressional Hearing process. Those critics suggest that Congress’ time
would be much better spent concentrating on healthcare costs, social security
reform, educational funding or equal rights issues.
look at Congress’ responsibility
to ensure the fundamental equal rights promised by our Constitution. If Congress
had taken a serious, legitimate interest in baseball apartheid in the first
30 years of the 20th century and subpoenaed the likes of Cap Anson, Ty Cobb,
Landis, Rube Foster, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Buck O’Niel, baseball
segregation would most certainly have been revealed as an injustice that was
Baseball authorities like Landis and players like Cobb and Anson actually
had the temerity to stand up in public and claim that blacks were not skilled
enough to play in their supposedly major leagues, or that no blacks had asked
for a tryout, or other ridiculous ruses to hide their naked ignorance and racism.
With a deliberate and comprehensive Congressional examination of the facts
these basic premises that comprised the fundamental platform of baseball segregation
might have been exposed for what they were — deeply offensive to most
blatantly unconstitutional. Had Congress intervened, baseball integration could
have evolved years before 1947 and possibly been an inspiration for earlier
integration in other aspects of American society.
COOL PAPA BELL
Years of baseball segregation not only
prevented blacks from competing against the purported best in baseball, but
also excluded athletes like Gibson, Paige and Cool Papa Bell, to name just
from being recognized for superlative performance on the field in the “legitimate” comparative
body of Major League baseball statistics and being compensated accordingly.
The use of illegal and dangerous drugs to illegimately enhance physical performance
in baseball is, pure and simple, cheating. Granted, the issue is not an egregious
social injustice like segregation, but illegal steroid use by athletes, especially
baseball players, definitely warrants Congressional scrutiny for several reasons:
The undeniable adverse influence that this behavior has on young fans and athletes
who emulate their heroes and strive for the “competitive” edge
at the expense of their health.
Let’s find out why apathetic baseball governance has been patently ineffective
in dealing with rampant and unabashed steroid use while the game’s integrity
was being obliterated by players whose physiques, lacking only the green skin
hue, were busting out like The Hulk.
• The foot-dragging Players Union needs to be exposed for its lack of candor
and foresight and the players, users and non-users, for their lack of personal
• What is the truth? When you are under oath you are supposed to tell the
truth, so help you God. If you lie, you can be punished under the rule of perjury.
much of the offensive barrage of the past 10 years was the natural progression
of ball players working smarter and harder, and how much was simply better
hitting through chemistry? A subpoena to appear in front of a congressional committee
may, in fact, be the only forum in which the suspected users are compelled
tell the truth.
Major League Baseball and the National Baseball Hall of Fame should be riveted
to these hearings. Players who use performance-enhancing drugs are cheaters,
pure and simple. Pete Rose has been banished from baseball since 1989 and been
reduced to a pathetic caricature of a man longing for the opportunity to be accepted
again by MLB and inducted into the Hall of Fame. It is safe to say that not one
of his 4,256 hits was steroid-enhanced. He was, and may still be, plagued by
a gambling addiction, but there is no evidence that he ever blatantly cheated
Sosa, left, and McGwire. Are they laughing
at the members
of the 500-home run club, the fans - or perhaps
The past 10 years have been an affront to the members
of the 500-home run club. Sammy Sosa will pass his fellow “juicer” Mark McGwire and then Frank
Robinson on the home run list sometime this May. Bonds will pass Babe Ruth in
May and set his sights on Hank Aaron’s all time record. How will MLB
manage records set by admitted performance-enhancing illegal drug users? Do
and Bonds have a lock on a spot in the Hall of Fame despite their obvious contempt
for the integrity of the game? MLB and the Hall of Fame acknowledged the need
to recognize past Negro League stars with induction into the Hall of Fame.
That decision affirmed the integrity of the Hall and the willingness to do
thing. Will they be consistent in doing the right thing and have the courage
to keep those who have disgraced themselves and the legacy of the game from
AARON played by the rules and faced the
indignities of racism during
his career. The possibility of his legacy
as the most prolific home run hitter in history
being minimized by a cheater like Bonds is
not only an insult to Aaron, but to the fans
A courageous man like Hank Aaron who came into the
National League in the early days of integration suffered the indignities
of racism in varying degrees throughout his career. His legacy as the
most prolific home run hitter in history is now being threatened by an
avowed cheater. Will MLB and the Hall of Fame have the courage to acknowledge
this indignity to, not only the venerable game of baseball, but also the
great players who preceded this scourge on baseball, and ban all of the
“juicers” from MLB and the Hall of Fame?
GUTS: Bud Selig and Baseball Players'
Association Executive Director Donald Fehr. Will they ultimately do what's best
We’ll see how the hearings play out and what “facts” come
to light. It will certainly be a media circus and the glaring absence of Bonds
these hearings suggests that the committee is inclined to avoid the high
profile personalities involved in the scandal. Baseball — Selig, the owners,
the general managers, the players and the union — owes us the truth about
steroids in our National Pastime. Unfortunately for the game and the fans,
if true to
form, Selig and MLB will not have the courage to face the indubitable truth
and do what is ultimately best for baseball and those who love the game.
In Mark McGwire’s rookie season of 1987 he was a tall lanky slugger
who poled 49 home runs. He would hit over 40 only one time in the next eight
Big Mac’s hulking shoulders and arms that can
barely be contained by his Cardinal shirt are evident in this photo circa
1997. McGwire’s A’s team mate Jose Canseco has publically
declared that he and McGwire regularly used steroids throughout the 90s.
From 1996-1999 McGwire averaged a mind-boggling 61 home runs and 132 RBIs
a season. In back-to-back seasons in ’98 and ’99, he smashed
135 home runs and drove in nearly 300 runs. The greatest sluggers ever
— Aaron, Ruth, Mays, Robinson, et al. — never had a run of
power like that.
The hulking 1998 Sports Illustrated Sportsmen of the Year are suspected, much
to the chagrin of MLB, to be phonies who performed under the influence of illegal
performance enhancing drugs during their historic run at Roger Maris’ home
run record that year.
THE CLASSLESS McGwire
insulted the family of Roger Maris with his antics in 1998 when "Big Mac" cheated
Maris out of his 37-year old record.
THE STATE OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL:
OPENING DAY, 2005
PART III: April 2,
The congressional hearing is over, the Grapefruit and
Cactus Leagues are winding down and opening day is here. Here is the state
of the Baseball Union:
left, was defiant and Mark McGwire were pathetic
during the congressional hearings.
• Bud Selig remains defiant but concedes that
players should face punitive action
for steroid use that excludes fines (what is $10K to a player with a multi-million
dollar contract?) and is based on public exposure and suspension.
• Mark McGwire was pathetic and obviously guilty of long-term steroid use.
SOSA: Speak no evil.
Sosa is willing to personally speak English and the truth only under very
selected circumstance which
does not include congressional scrutiny
and the threat
of perjury. “Baseball bin berry, berry good to me,” says
Sammy. We say: Guilty.
CANSECO HAS his own agenda, but there's no doubt his main message is true.
Jose Canseco, “juicer” and proud of it, is now a best-selling
author and will forever be known as the player who strayed from the misguided
of the baseball brotherhood to “drop the dime” on the false
icons of the game.
JIM BUNNING FOR
COMMISSIONER OF BASEBALL. Whenitwasagame.net is
ready to lead a grass-roots
campaign to replace Selig with Hall of Famer
and U.S. Senator Bunning as soon as possible.
• Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame
pitcher and impressive and impassioned ambassador of the true game of
baseball, brought wisdom and a voice of reason to the Congressional Hearings
with his plea to expunge steroid use and its users from the game and get
the National Pastime back to “When it was a game.” WIWAG is
prepared to lead a grass-roots campaign to replace Selig with Senator
Bunning as soon as possible.
• Hurricane Barry, previous sights set on the shores of baseball and the
hallowed Ruth/Aaron homerun milestones, has lost its fury and stalled out at
sea. Could his self-imposed exile, purportedly due
to slow rehab of a knee injury and unrelenting personal attacks by the media,
due to his self-realization that the truth has finally caught up with the fallacy
of his exploits?
"You and you and you and you..." How out of touch can a grown man be?Will
the despondent Bonds be able to overcome his enormous personal ego and obvious
contempt for baseball, the media and the fans and graciously
retire at age 41, saving the game and the fans from a painful and embarrassing
bogus run on Ruth and Aaron? Through WIWAG the fans of baseball have an opportunity
to be heard and encourage Bonds to quit while he is ahead.
THE HULKING1998 Sports Illustrated Sportsmen
of the Year are suspected, much to the chagrin
of MLB, to be phonies who performed under the
influence of illegal performance enhancing
drugs during their historic run at Roger Maris’ home
run record that year.
The great game of baseball has weathered many storms in the past. The fans,
the true “owners” of baseball, must hold the Commissioner,
the owners, the players and their union accountable as we move into another
season. The 2005 season may well be a watershed for the game. Our heads
are out of the sand and
looking at a high sky that, hopefully, bodes well for the future of baseball.
Sure, Sammy is still hanging around and there is sure to be a few
lower profile players who may have used “juice.” However, if
we insist on legitimate testing and are willing to expose previous lead-off
men who suddenly are posing
for the cover of Muscle Magazine and jacking 50 dingers (Brady Anderson,
1996), we can get on with the more important things like the Yanks vs. Sox
and Cubs vs. Cardinals.
• In 2005 baseball fans of all ages and loyalties will have the opportunity
tell their stories, express their opinions and enjoy baseball past and present
BUD STEPS UP TO THE PLATE
PART IV: May, 2005
Selig's proposal of 50-game suspension for first-time
illegal drug offense, 100 games for a second offense and a permanent ban
from the game for a third offense is a good start
COMMISSIONER Bud Selig
(above) has proposed a much tougher “three
strikes and your out” illegal
steroid and performance enhancing drug policy
than was negotiated in January, putting the
onus on ML
Baseball Players Union Chief Don Fehr (below)
to get the players behind the stricter policy.
In the face of unmitigated pressure from the fans,
the media and, ultimately, Congress, Commissioner
Bud Selig has, to use a baseball cliché,
stepped up to the plate and drilled one off the
wall for a stand-up double.
His April 25th letter to the players’ union proposing
a 50-game suspension for a first-time illegal drug
offense, 100 games for a second offense and a permanent
ban from the game for a third offense is a good start and puts “a
runner in scoring position” to
rid baseball of steroids and other performance
prospect of Major League Baseball ultimately losing
control to a federal blanket policy for all professional
sports leagues was most certainly a primary incentive
for Selig’s tougher
stand, which drew praise from Congress earlier
Baseball union boss Don Fehr’s response to Selig’s proposal
was predictable, indicating that he and his constituency were willing
to “talk,” but only in their own sweet time.
The very strong message from WIWAG to Fehr
and all of the Major League players is to step up to the plate NOW
and knock the run in by collaborating with Selig and MLB
and approving the proposed program. Why wait? In
the face of the past year’s
publicity and probe, most of the players are clean
OF FAMER Frank Robinson congratulates Vinnie
Castillo after a Nationals win in D.C. Robinson,
the major leagues' first African-American
manager, has the Nats in contention
for the National League East title.
Like so many times in the past, 50 games
into the 2005 season the venerable old National Pastime
seems to have bounced back up off the canvas
and weathered the catastrophic punch of illegal
performance enhancing drugs.
Fans across the country are savoring the
memory of the Red Sox impossible 8-game winning
streak to cop the World Series Championship last
October and regaling in this year’s 4-team
races in the National League and American League
East, the emergence of the ChiSox as the team
to beat in the AL Central, the surging Padres
and baseball back in our nation’s
It appears that the days of artificially pumped-up
sluggers routinely hitting 60 to 70 home runs a year has ended in
conjunction with the long overdue revelation of
and reaction to steroid and other performance enhancing
drugs in baseball.
short stop Miguel Tejada (below) and second-baseman
Brian Roberts (above) make up the
most productive keystone combination in
(13 HRs, 45 RBIs, .322 AVE.) and Roberts
(11 HRs, 33 RBIs and league leading .370
AVE.) have the Orioles on top for now in
the American League East.
Without the “juice”,
Sammy Sosa has had an occasion to hop up the first
base line only four times so far this year. He
has been only a minor contributor to the fast starting
high powered Oriole offense which has been paced by the slugging keystone
combo of Miguel Tejada and Brian Roberts.
HOME RUN KING, Hank Aaron, pictured here
with Commissioner Bud Selig, is
the primary target for Bonds’ bogus run
at the most hallowed record in sports. Ever
the gracious champion, Aaron has been silent
on the issue, however many of his contemporaries
have been very vocal in questioning the legitimacy
of the numbers put up and records set by the
likes of Bonds, Sosa and McGwire. Some
very difficult and controversial decisions regarding
illegal performance enhanced records will almost
certainly fall square on the shoulders of Commissioner
Selig. Barry Bonds has
been out of site, but, thanks to the media, not
out of mind. Many fans, more than a few ML baseball
veterans and distinguished members of the American
sports press have suggested that Bonds would
be doing himself and baseball a favor by bowing
out now at the age of 40 rather than putting
the game through what will almost certainly be
a very controversial and divisive run at Ruth
Rest assured that the controversy over
steroid enhanced performance and records will
live on long into the future. However, let’s
hope that the players will willfully collaborate
with Commissioner Selig to approve and implement
a program that effectively eliminates steroids
and other illegal performance enhancing drugs from
the game, and closes this disgraceful chapter
in the history of the game.