When it was a game.net


Welcome
Whenitwasagame.net themes and content are dedicated to the remembrance, celebration and preservation of our baseball heritage.
>>See story<<




Unnatural
disaster
threatens
baseball

We the fans, the true “owners” of baseball, must hold the commissioner, the team owners, the players and their union accountable.
>>See editorial<<



Power surge
The '50s was the decade of power and the numbers put up by the untainted athletes were impressive.
>>See story and stats<<



Your stories
Send us your stories and memories from when baseball was a game and not a business.


INSIDE:

CLUBHOUSE
CRONICLES

Jimmy Palermo, during a historic 7-day span in May, 1939, saw the meteoric rise of Williams and tragic decline of Gehrig.

THE GAME'S
GOLDEN ERA

An exclusive WIWAG ongoing feature.


MEMORIES
The field seemed vast to a 7-year old who had looked forward to this day for two months.

BREAKING THE COLOR LINE
The year marks the 60th anniversary of the first major league tryout for black players.

SPECIAL COLOR
LINE TIMELINE

Bud Fowler is the first know black players on an integrated team.

BOOMING BATS
of the '50s

Qualify as Grade A10.


AMERICA'S ORIGINAL
SPORTS BAR
First sports bar featured 12-inch Farnsworth TV.

BASEBALL
HISTORIANS

Two unsuspecting vintage baseball fans rediscover a "National Treasure."
>> Home page                                                                         >> Contact us
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'

PART I: March 1, 2005

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.

CONFLICT 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 a season.

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.

Here 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 the game.


BONDS before juice, above, and after, below.

Not a natural disaster, 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.
Hurricane Sammy, 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.

 

There are some who would suggest that chemically enhancing performance 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.

The 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 this storm.

If 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 make-over.

• 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 have 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 introduction 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 powerhitters.

It 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.

TED KLUSZEWSKI

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 30s.

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.


KINER



MAYS
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 369 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.

SLAMMIN 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, 2005

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 truth through 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.

PAIGE Let’s 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, Judge Landis, Rube Foster, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Buck O’Niel, baseball segregation would most certainly have been revealed as an injustice that was laughable.

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 people and 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 a few, 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 and professional responsibility.

• 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. How 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 to 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 the statistician.


CHEATERS: Sosa, left, and McGwire. Are they laughing at the members of the 500-home run club, the fans - or perhaps both?

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 Sosa, McGwire 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 the right 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 induction?

HANK 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 as well.

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?

NO GUTS: Bud Selig and Baseball Players' Association Executive Director Donald Fehr. Will they ultimately do what's best for baseball?
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 at 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 years.


"BIG MAC"

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, 2005

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:

BUD SELIG, 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.
Sammy 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 solidarity 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, be due to his self-realization that the truth has finally caught up with the fallacy of his exploits?


BONDS: "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.


ANDERSON
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 to tell their stories, express their opinions and enjoy baseball past and present on www.whenitwasagame.net.

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 enhancing drugs.

The 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 this month.

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.

Why wait?

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 anyway.

HALL 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 capital.

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.


ORIOLE short stop Miguel Tejada (below) and second-baseman Brian Roberts (above) make up the most productive keystone combination in baseball.  Tejada (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 and Aaron.

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.

 

>> Home page                                                                         >> Contact us