As most of you know, and are disgusted by, I have voted for Mark McGwire every year that he has been eligible for baseball’s Hall of Fame.
History, like misery, loves company, so this year I also voted for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell. All are either confirmed or suspected users of performance-enhancing drugs.
My other votes went to Kenny Lofton, Jack Morris, Curt Schilling and Lee Smith. They are considered clean, but who knows? Just because a player is perceived as innocent doesn’t mean he is.
The Steroids Era is so tainted that there might not be a single player elected to the Hall of Fame when ballot results are announced Wednesday afternoon.
Every time I ponder not voting for steroids users, something happens to draw me back to them.
Last autumn McGwire had me reconsidering when he indicated he wouldn’t vote for himself. That made me think twice about this year’s first-time eligibles: Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Piazza.
What brought me back to voting for them — and for Bagwell and McGwire again — was cleaning out memorabilia from the basement and finding reminders of what these men meant to the game.
My goodness, the steroid guys could fill collectible bins by themselves like some fans want them to fill a separate PED wing at Cooperstown.
Let’s start with a Cardinals Gameday Magazine from 1998, the year McGwire hit 70 homers to break Roger Maris’ record 61. Featured was a picture of McGwire dwarfing one of Maris.
Then there’s the cover of the Giants’ 1997 information guide with equal-sized action shots of Bonds and Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal.
OK, so that supposedly was a couple of years before Bonds plunged into the world of steroids, but here’s the Giants’ 2002 media guide. On the cover is not one, not two, not three, but four pictures of Bonds.
How about the Cubs’ information guide from 2003, five seasons after Sosa chased the all-time single-season home-run record while hitting 66.
The cover has the Samminator leaning on a bat next to Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks, also leaning on a bat during his playing days.
Here are other favorites from the Sosa collection:
A 1998 “Sammy Sosa Celebration” commemorative scorecard; a 1999 “Cubs Quarterly” with “Celebrity Sam” on the cover; a 2001 Vine Line magazine with Sosa as “Chicago’s Gladiator”; a 2001 official souvenir program with Sosa joining the likes of Kerry Wood on the cover; a 2002 scorecard with Sosa joining other Cubs, including Mark Prior; and a 2003 scorecard with Sosa prominent among players surrounding manager Dusty Baker.
If all those home runs weren’t enough to make Sosa the face of the Cubs, the club’s marketing department made sure he was.
The Giants did the same with Bonds and the Cardinals with McGwire and other teams with other candidates for the steroids Hall of Fame.
Heck, a couple of years ago a slick pamphlet arrived promoting suspect Juan “Igor” Gonzalez for election into Cooperstown.
One year the Field Museum sent out postcard invitations to a media preview of a “Baseball as America” exhibit … with a color photo of Sosa.
All in all these items comprise documentation that baseball was played during the Steroids Era, remarkable baseball feats occurred, and the game marketed the users.
Sorry, but I can’t pretend that none of it happened and that the Hall of Fame should exclude the Bondses, Clemenses and Sosas.
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