Steroids, Spitballs, and Greenies: a Baseball Hypocrisy

Most baseball experts and historians are drawing a hard line on players who have admitted to or have been accused of using steroids. They are calling these players cheaters and demand that they be banished from the Baseball Hall of Fame and have asterisks put next to their records. However, they choose to ignore other baseball greats who have admitted to cheating in other ways.


Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and now Alex Rodriquez, head the list of prominent, professional baseball players who either confessed to or are accused of using steroids. It is safe to say, for every superstar that is discovered, there are hundreds of others, who used performance enhancing drugs, but just fell under the radar. It is also safe to say that more names will probably surface before it’s all said and done.

Bonds, MLB’s career and single season Homerun King, admitted to taking substances called The Clear and The Cream, even though he claimed he did not know they were steroids.

Jason Giambi, a perennial all-star power hitter, openly admitted to using steroids, claiming it was poor judgment. Andy Pettitte, one of the top left handed pitchers of the past ten years, took the same route, claiming it was a mistake.

Mark McGwire, the first to break Roger Maris’s single season record during the historical 1998 homerun chase, with Sammy Sosa, never openly admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. During a congressional hearing, he stuck by his statement of, “I do not want to talk about the past’, which for all intents and purposes could be taken as a silent confession.

Sammy Sosa denied it. Raphael Palmeiro did too, and then wound up testing positive a few months later.

Roger Clemens, perhaps the greatest pitcher in the history of the game is still denying it, even though there is a pile of evidence indicating otherwise.

Now we have Alex Rodriguez, one of the best players in the game today, who many have labeled as the next homerun king, has also admitted to using steroids during the 2001 through 2003 seasons. This came after someone leaked out the results of a supposedly confidential drug test that was conducted by Major League Baseball back in 2003.

Whether they admitted it or not, all of these players have now been branded as cheaters because they took performance-enhancing supplements. The consensus opinion among baseball experts, historians, and fans is that all of these players should be banned from the hall of fame and asterisks should be put next to all of their statistics in the record books. The bottom line to this thinking is they cheated. And there is no room for cheaters in baseball, especially in the Hall of Fame or the record books.

Really?

In 1991 Gaylord Perry accepted his induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. From 1962 through 1983, Gaylord piled up some of the most impressive pitching numbers in major league history including 314 wins and 3,534 strikeouts. He won the prestigious Cy Young Award for the league’s best pitcher twice, once each in the National and American Leagues, making him the first pitcher in history to accomplish this feat.

These impressive statistics put Gaylord among the all-time great pitchers, and without a doubt earned him a place amongst baseball’s immortals. However, if you ask any baseball historian or fan what Gaylord Perry was best known for most of them would undoubtedly refer to him being one of the greatest spitballers of all time. As a matter of fact, his incredible accomplishments on the mound are to this day an afterthought. His legend and legacy are that he was a cheater.

Famous baseball manager, Gene Mauch was quoted as saying, “He should be in the Hall of Fame with a tube of KY jelly attached to his plaque”.

An anonymous ex-teammate said upon Gaylord’s retirement, “The league will be a little drier (his retirement as it relates to his grease ball) now folks.”

The most compelling and damning evidence comes from Perry himself. After his retirement Gaylord openly admitted that he used substances such as grease to doctor the baseball throughout his entire career.

The baseball almanac references several quotes by Gaylord. “I’d always have it (grease) in at least two places, in case the umpires would ask me to wipe one off. I never wanted to be caught out there with anything though, it wouldn’t be professional.”

“Grease ball, grease ball, grease ball, that’s all I throw him”, admitted Perry when asked how he got batters out in tough spots. He even described faking the spitter for psychological advantage.

For almost one hundred years, the baseball rulebook has clearly stated that intentionally doctoring a baseball to alter its natural movement is illegal. This means that during his entire career Gaylord Perry purposely broke the rules by throwing a spitter. In short he is an admitted cheater. Yet, his bronze bust sits in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and there are no asterisks next to his statistics. His cheating antics, to a point, have even been glorified.

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, arguably the greatest third basemen in the history of baseball, dropped a bombshell a few years back, by coming clean on the use of amphetamines, during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Amphetamines, also known as Greenies, are another famous and widely used performance enhancing drug. They give athletes a jolt of energy, boosting their performance. In 2006, amphetamines were also banned from baseball specifically because they were included as a performance-enhancing drug.

During his career, Schmidt smacked 548 homeruns, drove in 1,595 runs, had a .527 Slugging Percentage and won several gold-glove awards. These accomplishments bought him a first class ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame and deservedly so. Yet, in his book, Clearing the Bases, he claims amphetamines, “Have been around the game forever”. He further adds, “In my day, they were readily available in major league clubhouses.” He even states that some players got them legally via prescription then shared them with teammates. According to Schmidt, “Amphetamine use in baseball is both far more common and has been going on a lot longer than steroid abuse.”

Schmidt does not outright admit in his book that he used them, but during a telephone interview by the New York Times in 2006 he was quoted as saying, “A couple of times in my career, I bit on it.” He also admitted, “There were a few times in my career when I felt I needed help to get in there.”

During a drug trafficking trial back in 1985, names like Willie Stargell, Willie Mays, Dave Parker, Bill Madlock and Dale Berra were all mentioned as players who used greenies. If you took the approach that is currently being taken regarding the use of steroids, these players were all cheaters as well. The point here is that Amphetamines (Greenies) are performance-enhancing drugs, just like steroids. So, if taking steroids is cheating then so is taking amphetamines.

What we are dealing with is a complete hypocrisy. If we are going to punish players for cheating, even though they did not break an actual baseball rule, by banishing them from the Hall of Fame or putting asterisks next to their accomplishments, then we have to go back and kick Gaylord Perry and Mike Schmidt out of the Hall of Fame, along with countless others.

Most experts and historians admit that before steroids were banned from baseball, players who took them did not actually break a baseball rule. However, they are still crying foul labeling steroid users unethical because it degrades the integrity of baseball. This is blatantly a hypocritical stance, because these same experts voted Gaylord Perry, who cheated, and Mike Schmidt, who took amphetamines, into the Hall of Fame.

Gaylord Perry did not have proper ethics or the integrity of the game on his mind every time he went out and threw a spitball. His cheating can be categorized as more reprehensible because he broke an actual baseball rule. Anyone who takes amphetamines, just like steroids, is obviously looking to gain some kind of performance advantage. Yet, no one is calling for an investigation on the use of this drug and no one is calling Mike Schmidt, or the hundreds of others who took them, cheaters.

Throwing a doctored baseball is cheating. Taking amphetamines is cheating. Taking steroids is cheating. So what gives? Why are only steroid users vilified and admonished as cheaters?

On August 4th, 2005 during the Mike & Mike ESPN radio talk-show, Jason Stark, one of baseball’s top journalists became one of the first experts to jump into the fray with this specific point of view. When asked if he would still vote Rafael Palmeiro into the Hall of Fame, he replied, “Yes I would”. He explained his position by emphasizing, “Cheating is Cheating”, and if we condemn these players (Bonds, McGwire and Palmeiro) then we must revisit players like Gaylord Perry, who is one of many baseball heroes who blatantly broke the rules and yet went unpunished eventually gaining entry into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.”

When Stark was asked why he thought steroids seem to be more scrutinized than any other form of cheating in the past, he responded with a very simple explanation. He pointed out that homeruns are the most exciting and glorified accomplishments in baseball. Homerun records are the most recognized records in all of sports, and are held to a different and higher standard than other records. With this kind of notoriety brings microscopic analysis and extremely high expectations.

Quite frankly, this point of view can only be described as bush league. No statistic in baseball can be deemed more important than another. Be it strikeouts, homeruns, pitching victories or runs batted in, holding one to a higher regard is flat out wrong. If you are not willing to go back and punish other cheaters, regardless of what position they played or what statistics made them famous, then you cannot do it today, regardless of what type of cheating they were involved with. Steroids, versus spitters, versus greenies, if one is acceptable then so is the other.

In the end, any player with the proper numbers accumulated before steroids and greenies were banned from Major League Baseball, should take their rightful place among baseball’s immortals in the Hall of Fame, and no asterisk should appear next to their name in the record books. To separate them is hypocritical. So, until you are ready to dish out punishment to the likes of Gaylord Perry, Mike Schmidt and many others, players like Bonds, McGwire, Clemens or Rodriguez should be left alone letting their numbers dictate whether or not they should be in the Hall of Fame.

There are no hypocrisies in baseball.

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