Just over two weeks ago, Vice Chairman of the Baseball Hall of Fame Joe Morgan, a Hall of Famer himself, made a plea to voters asking that they not vote for players who failed drug tests, admitted to using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s steroid investigation. While on the surface, this letter is justified and reasonable. However, I’d like to get in the weeds with this issue. Let’s look further into this plea by wondering about: who is saying it, the generation he comes from, and steroids in sports in general.
In 2006, Mike Schmidt opened up in his book about the use of “greenies,” or amphetamines, in baseball. Schmidt insists that the use of the drug was well-known and that they were readily available in MLB clubhouses. Greenies were used to become more focused and enhance reaction times, and to stay healthy and energized. At a drug trial in 1986, John Milner claimed that Willie Mays had a bottle of amphetamines in his locker when they played for the Mets from 1972-1973. Now, if Mays was using the drug in that time frame, then surely Morgan was around for that era (he played from 1963-1984). I am not implying that Morgan took greenies, but if Schmidt, a Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest third baseman of all-time, insists that these drugs were rampant in that era and the aforementioned trial corroborated those claims, then it is all the more likely that Morgan knew what was going on.
If he knew about it, then this comment is extremely hypocritical. Are amphetamines not performance-enhancers? Again, they were used to help increase focus and reaction times, which are fairly important in a sport where a batter has fractions of a second to decide what pitch is coming and what to swing at. Likewise, it is very important for a fielder to react to a hard-hit groundball or a screaming line drive. The answer seems fairly obvious to me.
Going by Morgan’s logic, anyone who used performance-enhancers (in this case, greenies) should be ineligible from being in the Hall. That would mean that Willie Mays, who many consider the greatest player who ever lived, would not be a Hall of Famer, and who knows how many others. Morgan is so dead-set on criminalizing players of the 1990s and 2000s, but is hush on players of his own era who may have been using. I believe that’s something to consider.
Steroids, much like amphetamines, are used to increase muscle strength and increase healing rate. That’s…pretty similar to the benefits of greenies, in which they were used to stay healthy and energized. Many players have stated that they used steroids or Human Growth Hormone to stay healthy or come back from injury. How crazy! The same reason to take greenies! Also, if you know anything, you know that steroids don’t make you hit a baseball any better. What can make you see a baseball better, though?
As far as steroids in sports go, the 1963 San Diego Chargers are the first known instance of steroid use in sports. So, if steroids were available in 1963, what would stop baseball players from getting a hand on them in the same time period? That time period, by the way, was Joe Morgan’s. So steroid use could have very well been rampant in that generation as well, but it was under the radar – just like greenies.
Additionally, if you are going to criticize steroid users and want them banned from the Hall, then you should feel the same way about Commissioner Bud Selig who oversaw the league during the Steroid Era. Selig, of course, was elected to the Hall of Fame this year. Many believe that he knew about steroid use and was complicit with it because steroids were good for baseball. Prior to the 1998 race to break Roger Maris’ single-season home run record, ticket sales were down before shooting up in time for the home run race. Likewise, television ratings were down before increasing during the Steroid Era. Steroids were good for baseball, and Selig knew it. So he kept quiet. At least, that’s what you would believe if you thought he knew about it. Which I do. But that’s neither here nor there. Like it or not, players in the Steroid Era helped save the sport because, to put it simply, people like home runs. With players like Mark McGwire hitting 70 long balls in a season, it brought a new level of excitement and attention to baseball. There is a major possibility that Selig knew this and allowed it to happen. If that’s the case, people like Joe Morgan should be rioting in the streets because of the fact that Selig is in the Hall of Fame.
Going back to Morgan’s request, maybe he should go after the players from his era who cheated before he goes after steroid users. Be fair. Be equal. If you are not going to discredit the players who used greenies as a performance enhancer, then you should not discredit steroid users when they were used for the same personal gains. Until you do that, steroid users should be allowed in the Hall of Fame. The players that Morgan is attacking played an integral part in the game’s history and the resurgence of the sport, and they deserve to be acknowledged for it, just as those players from the “Greenies Era” have been.
Both or none. That is what it comes down to.
By: Chris Perkowski