Baseball fans can be such prudes! Even the baseball powers that be themselves have from time to time gleefully stoked that fire too. Holding players up to such lofty ideals that they themselves may not always follow their own rules.
Ball players who do not follow the rules –written and unwritten– are subject to the awful discipline of the office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.
His, Landis’ on down, cruel and unusual punishment meted out to certain players at certain times could simply be another stage in the evolution of the ancient custom of the public needing an entertaining catharsis. One like that wholesome entertainment once regularly on display for the masses at the Roman Coliseum back in the day.
Everyone knows that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. In the past baseball players’ time was their own and they could do as they please as long as they performed on the field.
Today they are poked and prodded and forced to live up to draconian standards of conduct others take for granted as inalienable right in an enlightened society. Such is the price to be able to compete on the biggest playing field of them all, Major League Baseball.
Our takeaway here is that there is an eternal unwritten law: that to appease the suits, fans, critics and most of all the baseball gods, a periodic sacrifice must be made at the alter of prudish opinion.
The following are but fifteen of the greatest ball players who are a shame to the MLB:
15. Shoeless Joe Jackson
Baseball’s original bad boy. Funny no one remembers the other players that were banned with him. Account after account states that his playing during the fateful World Series was exemplary and so did not play like a player who was intentionally flubbing it.
Found innocent in a court of law of all charges connected with throwing the 1919 series, Shoeless Joe Jackson had already proven that it wasn’t so. But that fact didn’t assuage the baseball puritans who thought “character,” their definition of it, was what mattered.
Feeling pressure from the fallout to the 1919 World Series gambling affair, a special new official was hired in the person of Judge Landis to be the very first commissioner of the National Pastime.
Ever since that time, for better or worse, Baseball Commissioners have wielded extraordinary power in their domain. Creating by their erudite edicts poor old Joe and other haunted denizens of baseball’s dark alleys.
So Judge Landis banned Jackson from ever darkening MLB’s doors again. Even after being found innocent of all gambling charges. That would have galled most anyone.
To be retried and retired like that was a great injustice. But after being taken to the cleaners by the commissioner by that very scenario, Shoeless Joe took the hint and went into the dry cleaning business for himself.
14. Roger Clemens
Is Senator George Mitchell and his damming list of steroid users baseball’s own version of Joe McCarthy? He certainly did a number on The Rocket as well as several other unfortunate inhabitants of our hall of shame.
When our heroes are exposed as charlatans –as was Roger Clemens at congressional hearings disseminated around the globe– it taints the very fabric of the sports fans being. It’s a disillusionment felt by many fans of the game.
Clemens’ fall from grace was a hit to the gut for Boston and Yankees fans alike. Possibly one of the very few events that could ever have brought such avowed baseball enemies to commiserate together.
Being implicated as having used steroids regularly during his storied career, the Rocket proved to be his own worst enemy after all. Making as big a stink as any living legend might be capable of making. The stink that he raised proved to be so big that he smells fishy to this day.
13. Barry Bonds
All of a sudden one fine spring day Barry Bonds sure looked a whole lot bigger than he used to. It must have been some heavy duty Wheaties.
Now that all of the self-righteous reporters and baseball officials have somewhat come to terms with the so-called steroid era, Bonds and The Rocket are again being considered as inductees for enshrinement into the baseball Hall of Fame. They’ve already topped the hall of shame so it makes perfect sense.
But seriously, as has been well documented by many astute baseball writers and other observers, boys will be boys. Already enshrined in the hallowed grounds are numerous other nogoodniks like Ty Cobb and even the Babe wasn’t the best example.
The moral of the morals clause is that morals are arbitrary and reflect the ever-changing beliefs of a society constantly at odds with itself. The result has been a lopsided WASP viewpoint of warped moralities.
12. Pete Rose
Speaking of the all-time hits leader, the travesty of the figure of Charlie Hustle, with hat in hand begging an unmoving commissioner for clemency is yet another pitiful saga of baseball’s false high mindedness.
To say that one of the driving forces of the Big Red Machine –with a pocket full of all time records– does not qualify for the Hall of Fame, would be disingenuous at best.
Stats are stats and records are records. They are inexorably bound into the fabric of the game. To say they are no longer valid skews the numbers and creates a void in baseball’s history.
Baseball should have learned long ago that that is a slippery slope.
That said, Pete Rose also deserves baseball’s all-time whiner award. Rose’s example during his banishment has been less than inspiring. And there’s the rub. Nobody’s perfect, least of all baseball players.
11. Alex Rodriguez
The baseball season is long and hard. Players must often fight off jet lag and limited sleep yet are expected to be in prime physical condition and be ready to play at peak levels always.
Every one wants and needs some kind of edge to wedge their way into the upper ranks of their chosen profession. That today’s pro ballplayers have availed themselves of the latest nutritional and scientific advancements seems only logical.
Science will not stand still; new versions of PED’s are sure to continue to be developed. What regimes athletes may use to hone their physiques used to be a private matter.
Now ballplayers must consent to have their privacy invaded by a bunch of suits and guys in white jackets. It seems downright unconstitutional.
10. Sammy Sosa
Sammy Sosa is some piece of work. For someone whom one might think would prefer to distance himself from the stench of ‘roids, what does he do but startup a company that enables drug injections sans needles. Go figure.
Baseball was very, very good to Sosa. Now as a well known has been he travels the world and grooms his portfolio.
Let’s face it baseball players are entertainers. All the guys on this list were certainly that and although they were naughty, gave the public many great and entertaining moments.
Because of his notoriously abrasive manners and maybe that corked bat thing, the hall of fame is becoming doubtful for Sosa. The many players of his caliber that have been banished to baseball bogey land evidence the standards of morality that govern the game as dubious at best.
9. Mark McGwire
This banning mentality of baseball’s is for the birds. Perhaps that is why it took bird Tony La Russa to flip Big Mac out of banishment and into the hell fires of a St. Louis summer.
The first and one of the very few to escape the outright disenfranchisement of being associated with PEDs, Mark McGwire has come full circle to join the Padres as a respected coach.
Talk in some baseball circles goes that since Bud Selig –the bum who presided over and turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the sickening spectacle of Big Mac and Company pulverizing basesball’s most cherished home run records– got into the Hall, why not McGwire too?
Like the fascination people get from watching death and torment on the nightly news, it was hypnotizing to watch. Baseball, abandoning its morals in a wanton orgy of drug induced home run fury, gave the people what they wanted.
8. Darryl Strawberry
Verily charity covereth a multitude of sins, but ah those sweet memories. God has washed Darryl Strawberry clean now but wicked mankind yet maintains a vivid memory. Hmmmrumph… elephant like it is.
Strawberry took smoking in the boy’s room to new levels with surreptitious sex-capades in between innings. He sure gave bat boy other definitions, let’s see now, who will play Darryl in the new biopic, Will Smith, Jamie Fox?
It’s convenient and even laudable that Darryl no longer acknowledges his own existence. But really not many people would care to listen to him –as he promotes his new white washed self– if he weren’t really in fact who he was.
There are plenty of other sinful nobodies without a controversial MLB career who could be hired for a lot cheaper than for the player once known as Darryl Strawberry.
7. Lenny Dykstra
Darryl might have taken a page right out of old Lenny Dykstra’s autobiography. Or is it the other way around, will the real Don Juan of baseball please stand up?
These dueling demons of love together have brought new meaning to scoring in a game. The fact that they were both Mets of no little renown begs the question, what do they really mean when they chant ‘let’s go Mets!’
In the old days, the media and society at large at least were able to maintain some small semblance of class. Or was it just censorship? FDR was spared a rigorous expose on his health.
For the most part all public figures up until comparatively recently were given something of a pass over of their bedroom antics. We need something of that today but probably will never have it again.
All professions will always have their black sheep. The public needs to be somehow insulated, yes even sanitized from the outrages routinely committed, in the dugouts and in the Senate and White House chambers.
6. Joe Pepitone
After numbers eight and seven, and now six, the query presents itself that there must be something about New York City that breeds bad boys. As Lynyrd Skynyrd propounded, “you sure got that right.” That explains all of the “ny’s” in that band’s name.
But Joe Pepitone was doing it when Lenny and Darryl were in diapers. He made being the bad boy in baseball fashionable. Joe was the first –after Alfalfa– to feature a bad hairdo along with bad manners.
Now he’s on another tear with the re-release of his classic kiss and tell biography. Did Joe ever make the partiers proud, he even made Rolling Stone Magazine and soon Pepitone, the movie, will set new standards of depravity for the baseball biopic.
5. David Ortiz
The Red Sox slugger has stated unequivocally that he has never taken the foul chemicals he so oft is associated with. His conviction and straightforward denials have carried weight with many in the media, who have not been hard on him like they have upon others in this list.
Perhaps that is because David Ortiz is so much more pleasant and personable than Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have been. Lesson there.
Except for CBS’ Kleinbard, he uses some savvy statistical data crunching quite effectively to all but frame the Big Papi as a big liar. Say it ain’t so, Papi.
Many Boston fans probably don’t care about the accusations. Just like Giants fans didn’t lose much sleep over Bonds’ steroid circus. Nor did the Cardinals fans worry about any reasons to suspect Big Mac’s sudden Babe Ruthian output back in those daze.
4. Rafael Palmeiro
The statement of Rafael Palmeiro’s attorney to 60 Minutes that he categorically denied shooting up steroids with Jose Canseco while they both played for Texas somehow comes across as disingenuous.
The more you look at the emotional outbursts of those fingered by old Jose the more they seem to form a pattern. They all appear more like the kid that got caught with the cookie jar than innocent victims ravaged by the injustice of it all.
The image of The Rocket going ballistic in the Supreme Court may be perfectly paired with that of Richard Nixon spinning like a dreidel and protesting, “I am not a crook.”
It all fits too well together, the heated denials, the counter aspersions. The truly innocent would probably more often have found the charges laughable.
One thing that many Democrats probably would acquiesce to be plausible: that George Bush–when talking regarding his reign as Texas Rangers head honcho, as to any knowledge of steroid use amongst his players– pleaded ignorance.
3. Jose Canseco
Anyone that can bounce a baseball from his cranium all the way over a fence and into the grandstands must have a solid head upon his shoulders.
In addition, his near 500-career home run total puts him in some elite circles. As does his World Series triumphs with the A’s.
The more one listens to Jose expound upon the subject of PEDs the more intelligent he sounds than do his detractors. All of whom refused 60 Minutes’ offers for equal time.
If Jose Canseco can go into such vivid details about his steroids escapades then why haven’t any really of those calling him a peddler of yarns been able to furnish some equally vivid recollections of their own innocence? Rather than their rote one-dimensional canned unfeeling responses.
If any of the ballplayers that Canseco fingered really had not been involved in the steroid use described by Canseco –whose knowledge of everything steroids lends him a certain credibility– then shouldn’t they have jumped at the opportunity the news magazine offered to clear their name?
2. Mitch Williams
It’s funny how at certain times during postseason contests when everything is on the line, some managers tend to go brain dead. Dusty Baker did it back in 2002 and during all his other playoff opportunities.
Jim Fregosi –who by then was no angel– seemed to do it again and again in the 1993 World Series. By inserting the Wild Thing, Mitch Williams in every pivotal moment when everyone else in the stadium and at home across the world knew it was a bonehead move.
When every other observer knew what is going to happen,Fregosi was looking at things through some snow-blind forest of trees affect. And the manager that commits the obvious World Series blunder always has the same lame excuse; “I have to go with the horse that got us here in the first place.”
Which is akin to a man crossing a desert and, arriving at a point where his animal has died, drags the carcass the rest of the way, exclaiming the above.
1. Ralph Branca
Even in death the stigma of blowing the Dodgers’ World Series bid follows Ralph Branca, the ghost of blown postseason’s past. But one refreshing aspect to these last two stories is that they are not about steroids or any other of the latest in fashionable PED’s.
If you must become a shamed baseball apparition, so much better for Branca and he Wild Thing, in light of all of the other sordid tales noted above, to be a specter created by and within the game itself, rather than in a test tube.
In light of all of the above revelations, the downside of the information age is laid bare. What good has knowing of the sins committed by Bonds and company done but made the game tainted?
Surely many things were done –like excluding blacks from participation– that could be twisted and construed to create an endless stream of asterisks. Maybe it’s time to embrace some sort of enlightened ignorance.
Just think of the absurdity of testing rock musicians for drugs before they can enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As studies have noted, generations before steroids, the players of earlier eras often used uppers.
It’s also very possible that many a player of the nineteenth century was playing under the influence of cocaine, laced in soda and other patent medicines of the day.
Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra, Joe Pepitone, Ralph Branca, Roger Clemens, David Ortiz, Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Cancesco, Mitch Williams
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