As has been the case since they reached the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot and received less than half of the votes needed for election, the omissions of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens threaten to overshadow the weekend’s induction ceremony. In the July 22, 2017 edition, the Post’s Larry Getlin guides a thorough walk through Chapter 8 of The Cooperstown Casebook, “This is Your Ballot on Drugs,” which explores the long history of performance-enhancing drug use within the sport as well as the so-called “character clause” that many voters cite when omitting Bonds, Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and others from their ballots. I wish that Getlin had at least mentioned the other aspects of the book — the nearly 300 players whose cases are covered at length or in brief, the history of the institution’s formation and the various trends that shaped it, but I’m not going to complain about having nearly 1,500 words devoted to it in a major New York daily.
“Hall of Famers from Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron to Mike Schmidt, Johnny Bench, Willie Stargell, and Frank Thomas have been connected to amphetamines, some by their own accounts, and they were hardly alone,” writes Jaffe.
“We generally don’t wring our hands about their usage — which helped keep players in the lineup and closer to the tops of their games — both because the pills were commonplace and because there were no real deterrents in place, even after these drugs were regulated via the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.”
Even steroids themselves, basically the same drugs considered the scourge of baseball over the past two decades, were used openly prior to that period. A former pitcher named Tom House told a reporter that performance-enhancing drugs “were widespread in the game in the 1960s and ’70s,” Jaffe writes.
“‘We were doing steroids they wouldn’t give to horses,’ he said, estimating that six or seven pitchers per team were experimenting with steroids or human growth hormone. ‘We didn’t get beat, we got out-milligrammed. And when you found out what they were taking, you started taking them.’”