It's the story everyone is getting sick of, that is, performance enhancing drug use in baseball. There are no doubts that PEDs are used in every major sport, but in baseball, a sport with a romantic relationship to its past, its history, the use has become the greatest crime of all. We want to remember the stars of old, the founders of the game, so that we can maintain the records every baseball fan knows and loves. PEDs have led to the fall of 755 and 61, two of the most famous numbers in baseball. It is the numbers of the past and the heroes of old that we want to compare to the all stars of today, so these numbers hold a special place in any baseball historian's heart.
Many have suggested putting an asterisk next to any player accused of proven to have used performance enhancers. Baseball writers have already punished any player connected to PEDs or rumored to have used PEDs, as players like Mark McGwire have failed to attain the necessary votes to enter the Hall of Fame. My question is why do we only blame PEDs for our lost comparisons?
We look at Ty Cobb's career average of .366, the 714 home runs of Babe Ruth, and the 792 doubles of Tris Speaker as the purest numbers of the game, but isn't there something wrong here? None of these guys ever played in a fully integrated game. Not until 1947 did we see a black player, Jackie Robinson, in the major leagues. Not until 1951 did we see our first latino all stars in Minnie Miñoso and Alfonso "Chico" Carrasquel. The first Japanese player was seen in 1964 as Masanori Murakami pitched for the Giants. Why is this so ignored?
Who would know if the numbers we so love and enjoy would be around. We have ignored the historical change in the game. The greatest players in all the world come together on the field in today's major leagues. Would those numbers be different if everyone had been allowed to play? Would we remember Josh Gibson as the home run king? Would John Henry Lloyd have been the greatest shortstop of all time?
As baseball fans we have a romantic connection to the past. We forget the changes in its history, whether it is the influx of the entire world into our game, the change in the height of the mound, the distance to the fences, the variance of pitches, or the use of modern chemistry. I'm not saying that PED use should be allowed or be part of the game, but we need to look back at some old records and see the history we overlook as fans.
We too often look to integrity and character in our baseball heroes. Steroids in baseball happened. An all white MLB existed even longer. Whether it takes an asterisk or years of growing votes, I, as a baseball historian, hope the players of the steroid era get enshrined in Cooperstown. PEDs helped inflate their numbers, but they made great players just greater. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens belong in the Hall of Fame (they both should get in based on pre-steroid numbers anyways). We cannot just wipe out the steroid era in baseball. How can we say the players of the past would not have used PEDs? Let's remember the entire history of the game before wiping out an entire era of baseball. I'll never forget my Dad keeping me up as a six-year-old to watch McGwire hit number 62, as it's one of the reasons I love this game. It's history I just can't forget.