Thursday, January 14, 2010
The Steroid Age: A look at McGwire and Weaver.
"Birds of a feather flock together"-Judge Kenesaw Landis, 1922.
Buck Weaver spent his entire life knocking on the door of baseball, only to be turned away. At the age of 63 he voiced to an Oakland, CA reporter that his only hope in life was just to "teach a few kids how to play third." Two years later he passed away. He never got the chance to teach anyone how to play third, how to hit a double down the line, how to throw a guy out at home.
Recently, home-run power hitter Mark McGwire finally came out to admit his use of steroids beginning as early as his 1989 pro season.
"Now was Mark McGwire punished for taking steroids?" my roommate asks me as we sit on the couch watching Everybody Loves Raymond and eating pizza this afternoon.
"Nope. Hes the new hitting coach for the Cardinals." I respond.
"What? All this talk you do about baseball and Weaver could never play, but McGwire gets to? Now you should write a blog about THAT" she shakes her head, taking another bite of our stuffed crust cheese lovers pizza (we rarely get bread or sauce with our cheese).
Funny thing was, I had already opened the tab and started the blog. She knows me so well.
Hank Aaron came out to the press and absolved McGwire of all wrong doing this last week. A jury of 12 peers absolved Buck Weaver of all wrong doing in the fall of 1921. Guess they didn't have a lifetime .305 batting average, were massive home run hitters, or inducted into Cooperstown.
Even Bud Selig is giving McGwire a get out of jail free card. Taking performance enhancing drugs even after illegal drug use of any kind had been banned in baseball in 1991? Well that's okay. Not snitching on your teammates when approached about an "idea" to throw ballgames? Well... that's NOT okay. Lifetime ban for you. Not to be lifted. "No time" in baseball to clear the name of innocent men. We have more poignant things to worry about during my reign, like revenue sharing.
Give me a break, Selig.
Id be curious to see what happened if we put McGwire, Bonds, Ramierez, etc on a trial with a jury of their own peers. Would they be acquitted? There's a difference sometimes between whats legal in the baseball world and the real world. In 1921 the law acquitted the 8 Men Out of any legal wrong-doing. They paraded around the courtroom on the shoulders of their jurors- all of whom admitted to not being a fan, nor knowing anything about baseball- something the prosecuting lawyers thought would help their case.
Judge and later, Commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis decided months later to still ban the 8 men from baseball regardless of the jury's verdict, to send a message out to the baseball world. Cheating and gambling, under no circumstance, was not to be tolerated in baseball
Illegal steroid use? Well, thats another story.
Don't get me wrong, I loved being 11 years old and watching the McGwire/Sosa race of '98. My friends at the small Catholic School I went to made fun of me. "Im rooting for Sammy- I like blue better than red" the girls would say. I knew better. "I'm rooting for McGwire. Im a sox fan. I hate the Cubs. Thats how my daddy says it goes." I would chime in on the playground. In central Illinois where there are far more Cub fans than Cardinal fans- and even more Cardinal fans than White Sox fans, I remember my family talking about the race. "Something just isn't right" the men in my family would remark.
I only wish I had known back then the importance of the record McGwire and Sosa were working so hard to break. Now I do, and now I wonder like the rest of the baseball world, how fair or real all the excitement in the 1998 season really was.
12 years later, a confession finally comes to light from 1 of the 2 men. I sat in my room with my ESPN text message of the breaking news and started laughing. I mean common, I was about as surprised about this as I had been when I found out Tim Lincecum smoked pot. Of course McGwire did steroids. Now he's a national hero.
The Maris family, Hank Aaron, and even Bud Selig in all his moral intelligence has forgiven McGwire. LaRussa stands in his corner, and I sit on my couch in Peoria wondering WHY a man who cheated the game so melodically by juicing for over half his career is allowed to come back and coach a bunch of guys on how to swing a bat. Do you choke up more when you're on or off the juice, Mac?
This acceptance of guilt only fuels my fire for lifting the ban on Weaver even more.
“You know Commission the only thing we have left in this world is our judge and the 12 jurors and they found me not guilty. They do some funny things in base ball.”-Buck Weaver, 1953
Like ban a guy who doesn't snitch to make an example out of him for the rest of the players in MLB, and let a man who admits to cheating the game coach a major league team only a decade after his retirement? Yeah, they do do some funny things in baseball, Buck.
If Selig were smart and actually took a clue from Judge Landis, the man who also banned blacks out of baseball as well as Weaver, (which he clearly backs up 100%) he would have put a ban on McGwire as soon as he admitted his guilt, told him "no way do you get to coach the Cardinals next year, sorry for your luck" and made an example out of him to the baseball world.
But, that would make just way too much sense, wouldn't it? Birds of a feather, after all, do flock together.
Til Next time,
We Are Chicago Baseball