Palmer says steroids may have aided 50-HR Anderson in '96

Ex-pitcher: `I don't know how' stats rose so much

March 16, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer created a stir at Orioles camp yesterday when his comments on baseball's drug-testing policy, aired on a Baltimore radio station, included suspicions that the franchise's single-season home run leader used steroids.

In an interview with 98 Rock (WIYY-FM) that was taped Saturday and played yesterday, Palmer indicated Brady Anderson's 50-homer season in 1996 might have been tainted. Palmer cited how Anderson hadn't previously come close to that total and how his production dropped in subsequent years while he dealt with various injuries.

Questioned later by The Sun, however, Palmer said he had no knowledge that Anderson had taken steroids.

Palmer told the station: "I like Brady, and it doesn't mean he's a bad guy because he took steroids. But I'm sure he wanted to enhance his performance."

Anderson's previous high for home runs was 21 in 1992. His output fell to 18 the next two years, and he never hit more than 24 in a season after 1996.

"I don't know how he hit 29 more homers that year," said Palmer, an Orioles television announcer. "And he hit 31 more on the road that year, so it's not like he took advantage of Camden Yards."

Anderson, who retired in 2003 after the San Diego Padres released him from their Triple-A affiliate in Portland, couldn't be reached for comment.

Palmer also included Barry Bonds, who broke Mark McGwire's single-season home run record in 2001, as an example of a player whose increased power and musculature could have resulted from an illegal substance.

Palmer was asked by The Sun yesterday to clarify his comments about Anderson.

"I said it's something baseball needs to deal with," said Palmer, who retired from the Orioles in 1984. "I don't know if Brady took steroids. How would I know? But he did go from [16] home runs to 50.

"When Bonds goes from 49 to 73, you just wonder. You're trying to have a level playing field and maintain the integrity of the game. I'm sure it was a great year for Brady, and it was a great year when Bonds broke McGwire's record, but you just wonder."

Palmer said he didn't understand why his remarks had created a controversy, and they weren't meant to indict Anderson.

"It was a general comment on the state of the game," he said. "They need to deal with it, whether it's Congress or the commissioner and the players union, they're going to have to come up with something.

"I'm just saying it's a concern when you have aberrations in people's performances. I know how hard Brady worked to be a good player. But who knows? You just don't know, and that's the fault of baseball, not Brady."

Palmer was the latest Hall of Famer to speak out about steroid abuse in sports. Last week, New York Yankees officials scolded Reggie Jackson - reminding him of a gag order imposed on team officials by commissioner Bud Selig - after he linked Bonds to the drug.

David Segui, one of Anderson's closest friends and a former teammate, sought an explanation from Palmer in the Orioles' clubhouse before yesterday's game.

"Nobody works out more than Brady," Segui said. "It's not like he all of a sudden gained 20 pounds. He's not a guy who fluctuates in weight more than 5 pounds."

Sun staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this article.

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