80 home runs on steroids? Big deal

May 30, 2002|By Kevin Cowherd

Dad, tell me a baseball story.

Sure, son. Once upon a time, there was a player named Babe Ruth who hit lots of home runs and -

What was he on, Dad? Anabolic steroids like Ken Caminiti? Andro like Mark McGwire? Human growth hormone?

Well, that's the thing, son. Ballplayers didn't take steroids back then.

Get out! So how did they get ripped, Dad? How did they get arms the size of dock pilings and shoulders like a defensive tackle so they could hit all those homers?

Actually, the Babe was sort of pudgy at 210 pounds.

Only 210? What was he, the batboy?

No, no, the Babe pitched early in his career, then played the outfield. Oh, could he hit home runs!

And he didn't take 'roids? Why, were they testing a lot back then?

No, son, they really didn't test for steroids in the Babe's day.

Because everyone knows water-based steroids wash out of your system in days, Dad. Now they even have steroids that don't show up in urine tests at all. And human growth hormone - the CIA couldn't detect that stuff in your system.

No, son, Babe Ruth wasn't afraid of testing. See, there was no need for testing. Ballplayers just didn't take steroids back then. They drank whiskey and smoked cigarettes and chased women instead.

They couldn't take steroids? Dudes should've filed a grievance with the players' association.

Steroids just weren't around, son. If the Babe wanted to get up for a game, he wolfed down a half-dozen hotdogs, the way the good Lord intended.

And none of the other great sluggers you're always talking about - Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson - took steroids, either?

Nope. They all relied on God-given talent and hard work to hit their homers.

Not 2 cc's of Deca-Durabolin taken intravenously every other day in the off-season?

No, son. Why, back then ballplayers didn't even carry hypodermic needles.

And this Babe Ruth had game?

Major game. He hit 60 homers one year.

Big deal. Barry Bonds will have 60 by the All-Star break. He'll probably break his own single-season record of 73.

But don't you see, son? So many of these home run records might be tainted. They're being set by bulked-up uber-players illegally enhancing their testosterone levels and muscle mass. No, give me baseball the way it was played in the old days.

But, dad, you told me baseball in the old days was played by racists like Ty Cobb and mean drunks like Billy Martin and cokeheads like Steve Howe and Darryl Strawberry and degenerate gamblers like Shoeless Joe Jackson, Denny McClain and Pete Rose.

OK, fine. But a homer meant something back then, son.

Barry Bonds will hit 80 homers this year. So will Sammy Sosa.

And the utility infielder for the Kansas City Royals will probably hit 50. Don't you see how the home run is being de-valued by all these juiced-up musclemen, son? These guys aren't just hitting the weight room. They're lifting the weight room.

Barry Bonds said he'd submit to a test for steroid use, if it came to that.

I think all major leaguers should be tested.

Look, I'm not talking about DEA agents sweeping into major league clubhouses and tossing players against their lockers for urine samples. I say let baseball itself conduct random tests. If a player fails one, suspend him without pay for a month. If he fails another one, suspend him for a full year.

You really think it's that serious, Dad?

Absolutely. If steroid use is making a mockery of baseball's records, if it's throwing the game's essential confrontation of pitcher-vs.-batter out of whack, something has to be done.

Plus, these steroid junkies are dopes. They don't worry about all the health issues, the fact that prolonged steroid use can lead to seizures, strokes, heart attacks. Not to mention what steroids can do to a guy's sex life. ...

My goodness, look at the clock. Story time is over, son.

Dad?

Yes, son?

Tomorrow night, can you tell me a story about the FBI terrorist memo the authorities failed to act on?

We'll see, son. We'll see.

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