Among Orioles fans, shock mixes with anger, disbelief

Disappointment: Many feel let down, saying a professional athlete should know the rules and take responsibility.

Dark Day For Palmeiro

August 02, 2005|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Chris Cleveland looked up at the warehouse banner heralding Rafael Palmeiro's 3,000th career hit and saw a cultural divide.

"Here's the problem," said Cleveland, shirtless and sunning himself on Eutaw Street while the Orioles played the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards yesterday. "These guys live a different life than the rest of us. They don't live our life. So how they view their world is different from how you and I view the world.

"In Raffy's world, it's OK to do what he did. It's a different world."

Palmeiro's world took a blow yesterday when Major League Baseball announced that he had been suspended for 10 days for violating baseball's policy on steroids. In a conference call with reporters, the Orioles first baseman said he never took steroids intentionally.

FOR THE RECORD - An article yesterday about fan reaction to the suspension of the Orioles' Rafael Palmeiro incorrectly spelled the name of a fan. Her name is Michelle Hunt-Laubach.
The Sun regrets the errors.

Palmeiro denied using steroids on March 17, when he faced a congressional committee investigating steroid use in baseball after a book by former major leaguer Jose Canseco implicated several players, Palmeiro among them.

While Palmeiro began serving his suspension, reaction from baseball fans at Camden Yards ranged from shock to anger to denial.

"The man just reached 3,000 hits," said Ed Johnson, 38, of Baltimore. "It's shameful. Him of all people. It's very shocking. Now I'm teed off."

"I'm still taking it all in," said Drew Long of Ellicott City. "I was in shock when I got here and found out it happened."

Long left open the possibility that Palmeiro is innocent but said, "It doesn't look good."

Michelle Hung-Laubach was annoyed by Palmeiro's suggestion that the positive test was, in effect, an accident.

"If you're a professional athlete, then you are 100 percent responsible for what you put in your body," said Hung-Laubach, 36, a Baltimore schoolteacher. "It pains me to say it, but if you are a professional athlete, you know the rules. How can you say you don't know?"

Nicole Loukonen, a college student from North Carolina spending her summer as an usher at Camden Yards, remembers watching Palmeiro's testimony before Congress.

"I guess he was lying all along," she said. "I was surprised he got caught."

"Is that right?" said Ronald Fudge, 55, of Gambrills when told about the suspension. "With all of the stuff going on about steroids, you'd think he'd be sure he knew what he was talking about."

Clinton Anderson of Baltimore said he doesn't believe Palmeiro is guilty.

"Rafael Palmeiro has always been a guy that went by the book," Anderson said. "Him testing positive, I would not be surprised if somebody set him up. I think it was something he didn't know about.

"I've heard him tell little kids to stay in school and don't mess with drugs."

Two younger fans were less forgiving. "It says he's not a fair player," said Jayson Douglas, 12, of Columbia. "He's not a good role model. There are a lot of people looking up at Orioles players. A lot of people want to know what to do. I'm disappointed."

His sister, Stephanie, 11, agreed. "I don't care what he's doing with his body," she said. "I do care if he's trying to get away with steroids. He needs to set an example.

"For him to do that, it pulls down his team and the people who look up to him as a role model."

Cleveland, an account executive for a Rockville printing company, made no judgment on Palmeiro's alleged steroid use, but raised an issue that many are contemplating in the wake of the suspension.

"I look at that [3,000-hit banner], and without taking steroids, I'd probably see 2,200, because he's a professional athlete. He knows what he's doing.

"I wouldn't fall for the word `cheated.' He was just trying to better himself as a pro athlete."

Sun staff writers Melissa Harris and Annie Linskey contributed to this article.

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