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Selig Takes the Dream Out of Baseball

By John B Holway

Mark McGwire doesn't want to talk about it, but he and Barry Bonds have not only commited crimes against the past – Roger Maris and Babe Ruth. They also commited crimes against the present: If we are to believe Sammy Sosa that he never took steroids, then Sosa, with 66 homers, and not McGwire or Bonds, deserves the record.

(Would Sammy accept? What would he say? This could get very interesting.)

Now Commissioner Bud Selig has ruled that the two steroid cheaters have committed crimes against the future as well. By ruling that their records will stand -- and that steroids will be outlawed – he has ruled that no future slugger can ever surpass them.

No longer will a boy grow up dreaming of breaking the home run record. Selig has taken the dream out of baseball. He has mummified the record book.

John B Holway’s latest books, TED, the Kid and Blackball Tales, will be published this spring.

Barry won't even get an asterisk.

Some future kid who slams 62 homers may (*set without steroids). The boy may not even get that much.

Meanwhile, McGwire and Bonds will get nothing to inform future generations that they cheated.

Mac repeatedly told the House committee that he was there to talk about the future. Fair enough.

If the Senate holds its own hearings, Senator John McCain may want to ask both him and Selig about who will deserve the asterisk in the future.

Selig may chisel 73 home runs into the record books for all future generations to salaam to. But he can't make me kowtow to it. As far as I'm concerned, that whole decade from 1995 to 2004, never happened.

I saw Jimmie Foxx in ’40. I saw Ted Williams hit .406 in ’41 and Joe DiMaggio during his streak. I saw Josh Gibson in ’45. I saw Mickey Mantle slam two 500-footers in a row in ‘56. I saw Maris hit three homers in ’61. I saw Sadaharu Oh in ’73. I saw Big Mac hit three in ’98. And I saw Barry hit #70 in ’01.

I was thrilled to see all of them. But I now know that I was hornswoggled by the last two. I am furious that I let myself be hoodwinked. by charlatans.

Selig may insist that technically their records were “legal.”

Then why all the secrecy? Did McGwire exult, “Heh, I found this great stuff called andro. My collar size has grown six inches, I've put on 40 pounds, and look what it’s done to my home run totals?” Did Bonds boast, “Man, I have a friend who gave me this stuff; I don't know what it is – they call it ‘clear’ or something – but look at my chest now, and what about those thighs?”

No. Not a peep out of either of them. Bonds even told us he got his muscles from eating broccoli (!).

They knew what they were doing was wrong.

The analogy to Pete Rose is apt. Rose broke no federal law – millions of Americans bet – but he broke a baseball law, so baseball banned him. Bonds, McGwire, and others broke the federal law, but Bud quibbles that they broke no baseball law, so he promises he'll protect their records for eternity.

I would also like to suggest that McCain’s committee call one or more pitchers to testify. The House hearings pointed out that it is highly suspicious when batters hit more homers in their late 30s than they did in their late 20s. One could also ask why a pitcher can win more games and strike out more batters at 41 than he did at 31.

Especially if he looks as if he just stepped out of a Michelin Tire ad and weighs 40 pounds more than he did a decade ago.

In 1948 I saw the greatest pitcher in baseball, Bob Feller, 185 pounds, strike out 343 men. I saw Bobby Shantz, 155 pounds, win 20 games. Now Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling weigh in at 255 or thereabouts and still can't strike out 343 men.

I believe Schilling when he says he doesn't use steroids. But there's something hypocritical to hear him piously denounce them. He doesn't need them, and he doesn't want any 185-pounder bulking up with chemicals and beating him. The same goes for outfielder Frank Thomas, 270. They can afford to be holier than thou about steroids.

Size matters and always has. The reason Babe Ruth was the greatest slugger of his day is simple – at about 212 pounds he was also the biggest in an era when other heavy hitters, like Foxx, weighed 185 to 195. In 1927 Lou Gehrig at 200 pounds was second to Ruth, and also second in home runs. Walter Johnson was the top pitcher of his day because, at 200 pounds, he was also the biggest.

Imagine Ruth, Foxx, Williams, Mantle, Maris, Reggie Jackson, Frank Howard, Johnson, and Feller on steroids!

Let’s face it, everyone talks about a level playing field, but nobody really wants one. In fact, the very principle of playing a game is to see who is more blessed than whom.

In the Senate hearings, I hope McCain will also call managers and owners, starting with Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, and George Steinbrenner.

La Russa and Torre both managed not one, but two, steroid abusers. Jose Canseco and McGwire played for LaRussa, and Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield played for Torrre.

Tony says that as far back as 1988 in Oakland, he suspected that Jose was getting muscles “the easy way.” Tony hasn’t explained why he waited 17 years to share his suspicions, but he evidently believed Jose’s blockbuster book. However, he says he doesn't believe Jose injected Mark, because you can't believe anything coming from that source.

Sandy Alderson, Jose’s general manager in ’88, also says that somewhere along the way, he began suspecting Canseco. Alderson, who now works for Bud Selig, doesn't say how long it took him to suspect or when he shared his suspicions with the commissioner.

If I were Senator McCain, I’d find out.

Like LaRussa, Torre managed two admitted steroid abusers in his locker room. One of them, Giambi, slugged two long home runs to beat the Red Sox in the dramatic seventh game of the ’03 playoff.

I think that game should be thrown out of the record books too.

I once asked Torre’s predecessor on the Yanks, Buck Showalter, if he knew a statistic I had dug up on Yankee pitcher Jimmy Key. “It’s my job to know,” Buck shot back.

McCain might ask La Russa, Torre, and Steinbrenner: “Wasn't it your job to know?”

He also might ask Selig, “What did you know, and when did you know it?”

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