The Montreal Expos were on their way to their best year in history with a 74-40 record and 6-game lead in the NL East. The Padres' Tony Gwynn was batting .394 and had a chance to hit .400 and possibly top Ted Williams' .406 mark set in 1941, the last man to hit .400 in the last 53 years. Matt Williams of the Giants had 43 home runs and a shot at besting Roger Maris' all-time record of 61. The Colorado Rockies were averaging 57,570 fans per game and on pace to draw a record 4.6 million. The Yankees had not been to the post season in 14 years and were leading the AL East by 6.5 games. Although the average salary of a MLB player was 1.2 million dollars/annum, the players decided to strike. On August the 11th, 1994, major league baseball came to a sudden halt. The season was over and for the 1st time since 1904, there would be NO World Series. $580 million in revenues and $230 million in player salaries were lost. Several star players bolted to Japan while scabs or replacement players began the 1995 season. Attendance and the caliber of play dwindled. The fans that did show up booed the players and pelted the fields with beer bottles and other debris while displaying protest signs blaming greedy ballplayers. President Clinton ordered owners and the Players Association (Don Fehr) back to the bargaining table but to no avail. MLB was in dire straights. The strike ended in the spring of '95 but the sport needed a kick in the ass or some sort of shot in the arm. Baseball got what it needed however the injections was not in the arm.
In his book published in 2005, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big, Jose Canseco states that he 1st learned of and started using anabolic steroids and human growth hormones while working out at a Miami gym long before the start of his major league baseball career (1985-2000). Football players, body-builders, and weight lifters had been using performance enhancing drugs (EPD's) for years, mostly anabolic steroids. It would just be a matter of time before the PED craze infiltrated other sports including cycling, wrestling, swimming and most notably baseball, notorious for cheaters, whether it be at the plate or on the mound. In an interview with Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, Canseco boasts of his introducing steroids (Deca Durabolin and Winstrol) to baseball, shooting-up with Mark McGwire in bathroom stalls and introducing the drugs and injecting teammates Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriquez, Juan "Gone" Gonzalez, and Jason Giambi, the latter three becoming league MVP's. The mere thought of two giant Goliaths injecting each other in the gluteus maximus with steroids and then taking the field and unleashing their elevated levels of testosterone upon unsuspecting pitchers with upper-deck homers is both gross and disgusting. Palmeiro got traded to the Baltimore Orioles for the 1994 season and a few years later, 7 of the 9 Oriole starters hit 20 or more homers, more than any other team in the major leagues. Canseco's pyramid scheme of producing super ballplayers with an array of drug-use may have saved baseball from boredom and financial ruin in the 1990's but it also produced an un-level playing field for those who were clean and tainted America's past-time forever. Admitted PED user Ken Caminiti won the NL MVP award in 1995 and later died at age 41 of a drug overdose (cocaine and opiates). Yankee shortstop Alex Rodrequez won the AL MVP award in 2001 and admitted to steroid use after getting busted not once but twice and for his good behavior got a job with Fox Sports as a TV analyst.
What remained regarding ethics and morality were flushed down the toilet. It became a matter of either submitting to the drug use or risk being sent to the minors or worse yet, out of baseball completely. Attendance returned with monster home runs and elevated offenses while pitching took a beating. Revenues returned and the salaries of power hitters soared. Jason Giambi signed a seven-year $120,000,000 contract with the Yankees in 2001 but nearly lost it after testing positive for steroids a few years later. MLB (Bud Selig) and the owners (most notably Oakland, Texas, Baltimore, Boston, San Francisco and the Yankees) were either ignorantly blind or simply looked the other way. Obviously, the all-mighty dollar had prevalence over integrity. Random testing for PED's were not implemented until 2003. Initially, Canseco's words were passed off as a brash attempt to sell books however the Mitchell Report, the Balco Scandal, the Biogenesis leak and player admissions indicate that maybe Jose, the "godfather of steroids" may have been telling the truth all along.
At age 24, light-hitting center fielder Brady Anderson hit only one home run during his rookie year in the majors and only ten in 1,406 at-bats during his first 4 years in the majors. He hit sixteen in 1995 in 554 at-bats. The very next year he broke the Baltimore Orioles’ all-time home run record with a whopping fifty circuit-clouts besting the great Hall of Famer Frank Robinson who hit 49 in 1966. Anderson remains 2nd in Oriole history behind Chris Davis' 53 home runs hit in 2007. Brady slipped to just eighteen homers in 1997 and averaged 14 per during his 15 year MLB career.
Mark McGwire hit fifty-two round trippers in 1996, fifty-eight in 1997, a MLB record seventy in 1998, and sixty in 1999. Sammy Sosa swatted thirty-six big flies in 1997, sixty-six in 1998, sixty-three in 1999, fifty in the year 2000, and sixty-four in ’01. Before the mid-nineties, only two other major leaguers had hit sixty home runs in a single season--Babe Ruth hit sixty in 1927 and Roger Maris hit sixty-one in 1961. Both were left handed pull-hitters for the Yankees with that short right field fence and the pitching wasn’t nearly as good in those days.
Barry Bonds hit a major league record seventy-three dingers in 2000 and a MLB record 762 for his career. During his 7-year career at Pittsburgh (1986-1993), he hit 176 HR's or 25 homers a year. During his fifteen years with San Francisco, hitting in pitcher-friendly Candlestick and AT&T Park, he hit 586 homers or 39 long balls per year including twenty-eight at age forty-two in 2007 and that includes 2005 when he only hit five in an injury-plagued year. Wow, I thought after seeing Bonds tomahawk an Eric Gagne head-high, 102 mph fastball into McCovey Cove, only about 10 feet foul. After taking or fouling off several breaking balls, Bonds blasted another high, 100 mph fastball off the big Dodger Canuck. This time, sending the pitch soaring over the 421 marker in right-center field. Evan Clark Kent would have been impressed. Boston's "Big Poppy" David Ortiz ended his 20-year MLB career this year (2016) at age 40 with his best year ever when he hit .315 and led the American League in doubles (48), RBI's (127), extra base hits (87), OPS (1.021) and slugging % (.620). His 38 home runs was the league's 3rd most.
In 1997, I was working on a story and spent a few days in Arizona at the Diamondbacks spring training facility where I talked to a young nineteen year old first baseman who was struggling with the bat. He had spent his last two years of High School modeling Mark McGwire’s closed stance but the D-Backs wanted him to change and use an open stance. He was having trouble adapting and said he was thinking about trying steroids in an attempt to make the team and that about half the players were using steroids. Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut but I reminded the young man of Lyle Alzado, the great Oakland Raider linebacker who had a brain tumor and died at the early age of forty-three, supposedly from heavy steroid use. By the end of March, the rookie Diamondback from New Mexico was red-tagged, cut from the team.
Anyone who uses PEDs to get an edge or advantage are hoodwinkers. They’re cheaters and gypping someone else out of a job and maybe out of a life-long dream. It was Andro, or Androstenedione, the anabolic steroid that was first spotted by a reporter alongside a can of “Popeye” spinach on the top shelf of McGwire’s locker when the slugger was with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998. He hit seventy homers that year. At that time Andro was banned by the NFL, IOC and the NCAA, but ok as far as Major League Baseball was concerned. It was Andro that the young Arizona Diamondback was considering using.
There’s been some wild reports regarding the use of PED’s in baseball dating back as far as 1889 when Bud Galvin, a pitcher with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, eventually the Pittsburgh Pirates, used Brown-Sequard Elixir or testosterone derived from other animals. Supposedly, even Babe Ruth once tried to inject himself with an extract from sheep testicles only to make himself sick and miss some playing time. The use of steroids by professional baseball players was first acknowledged by a player in the 1970’s. Amphetamines become baseball’s drug of choice during the 1980’s with hopped-up pitchers and hitters with lightning quick bat speeds. The ’90’s brought steroid use to epidemic proportions. After several major league stars got busted, the steroid craze died down but artificial testosterone and human growth hormone or HGH and combinations thereof began to come into vogue.
The Doctor Frankenroids of sports seem to be able to keep one step ahead of the law, or testing methods, by tweaking formulas, as new, more powerful and efficient PEDs keep cropping up producing Nietzschean-like Ubermensch or Supermen. A popular drug of choice is oxymetholone or Anadrol. With just a few weeks use, an athlete can bulk-up, increase his or her strength, and elevate performance, along with higher liver enzyme levels. It was the female fertility drug chlorionic gonadotropin or hCG that got Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez busted. The drug is typically used by steroid users to restart the body’s natural testosterone production after coming off a steroid cycle. Yech. Recently, 2016, three major leaguers tested positive for Turinabol, the anabolic used by East German athletes during the 1970's. Normally, the drug will dissipate after a week or two and become non-detectable however new testing methods will reveal metabolites or traces of the steroid.
It's been noticed on more than just a few occasions whereby a promising young player flounders in the minor leagues for a few years, then all of sudden, within a few weeks, starts bashing home runs and winds up in the majors. The alternative would be getting released. The logic is easily understood: use PEDs in high school or college, where there’s little or no testing, to first sign a contract or use them to stay in the minors and climb the Jacob’s Ladder of baseball hoping to reach the major leagues. The key is when to start and stop taking the drugs in order to keep from getting busted or losing your health. It would explain the rapid rise and fall or fluctuations in one’s statistics during the course of a long season. It's no secret that random testing usually occurs during spring training and shortly before the all-star break.
In lieu of all this, it appears rather odd, sad, and somewhat absurd that hundreds of players have cheated, received fame and fortune including MVP's, been busted and allowed to return and sometimes busted again including a left-handed pitcher who was suspended 7 times for cocaine use and later died with meth in his system. Some are even lauded and rewarded with career-ending celebratory tours, coaching jobs, and broadcasting positions. Sorry, Mr. Rose. It doesn't matter that you are the greatest pure hitter of all-time with more hits than anybody. Drug use, robbery, sexual assault, spousal abuse, violence and even murder are forgiven but the gambler is banned for life.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS
From The Existential Ballplayer by Robert Quinlan
THE MITCHELL REPORT
The Mitchell Report is the result of former US Senator George Mitchell's (D--ME) 20-month investigation into PED use in MLB which was released in 2007. Log onto the Mitchell Report for a complete list of those implicated. Since then, hundreds more have tested positive for PED's.