The steroids gang: New villains for a new century of baseball

The early days of 20th century baseball live in the imagination of us modern men. We have in our heads hazy images of Frank “Home Run” Baker, Smokey Joe Wood and Muggsy McGraw, hard-nosed country boy players and managers from a rough-and-tumble era that ended ignominiously with the Black Sox game-fixing scandal of 1919.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Roger+Clemens&iid=1470591″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/1470591/clemens-fails-win-300/clemens-fails-win-300.jpg?size=500&imageId=1470591″ width=”234″ height=”153″ /]And what will our grandchildren yet to be born see in their mind’s eye of baseball early in the 20th century? The legacy of the first decade of the millennium will be the bulging bicep, needle-nicked physiques of sluggers Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. And there will also be the stained legacy of Roger Clemens, who today in federal court in Washington pleaded not guilty to a charge he lied to Congress about his alleged steroid use.

At least with the Black Sox episode, players like Shoeless Joe Jackson have public sentiment in their favor. Jackson was duped, his many defenders insist, and I believe them.

But with Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa and so many of their contemporaries, there are no excuses. These are modern athletes with agents and personal trainers and lawyers afforded by their multi-million dollar contracts. If they did use steroids – and I’m in no position to state with any certainty that they did, but the evidence seems overwhelming – they did so knowingly.

McGwire told Congress he didn’t want to talk about the past, and so many of his contemporaries want to put the issue behind them. No wonder. The glory of their times was a ruse.

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