Take Me Out To The Ball Game Part 2

This is a continuation of the article about the trip my son and I took this past weekend to Cooperstown, NY for the Baseball Hall of Fame inductions of Tony Gwyn and Cal Ripken Jr.

Previously I discussed heroes of the game and some of the wonderful experiences my son and I have had meeting the true greats of the game of baseball.  However this year along with the great excitement of what Cal and Tony achieved there was also a dubious side to baseball. 

This year was the first year of eligibility for Mark McGwire who was soundly turned down by the voters.  We are also on the cusp of seeing history made when Bonds breaks Hank Aarons home run record but with the question of whether or not he did it fairly.

While walking around Cooperstown such topics were all the buzz on the street.  My son being only 5 didn't understand the complexity of some of them but never the less was interested in knowing why some players cheat.

As we walked past a store which featured Pete Rose signing autographs there were numbers of people muttering that Pete should be in the Hall of Fame.  Others laughed at shirts hanging in the windows of stores which poked light at drugged up sluggers touting mottos such as "755* done without drugs" or "Non Medicated Player".

My son after a brief discussion about the George Brett's pine tar bat asked how George could be in the Hall of Fame if he cheated so I had to try to explain how that was more of a mistake then cheating.  His questions however struck me how influential baseball can be and the complexity of it all.

On one hand there are clear cut bad guys such as the 1908 Black Sox who threw the World Series.  Then you have players such as George Brett who have made what I believe to be an honest mistake which created infamous situations.  To Pete Rose who's performance in the game was legendary yet who's personal life violated what baseball officials consider valid rules of conduct.  To McGwire, Bonds etc who "allegedly" used enhancements to allow themselves to perform beyond their natural abilities and Sosa who was caught using a corked bat.

Regarding that last group I see two sides to the story.  First you have baseball purists who want to see players such as Ripken who go out there and play to their abilities.  Cal's most famous for simply playing every single day and while he's had an outstanding career it was his number of consecutive games which set him apart in the record books.  And what makes that achievement so great is that in looking at it one feels that anyone if they try hard enough could do something like that.

On the other side you have Bonds who hits more home runs in a year and who is looking to hit the most home runs in a lifetime but he didn't do it naturally.  He took drugs to allow his body to achieve more then it naturally would have been able to.  Some people however don't mind that he took drugs because he made the game exciting to watch.  The nation was on the edge of their seats when McGwire and Sosa were going neck and neck toward breaking the home run record.  And nearly everyone finds games with players belting home runs left and right to be far more exciting to watch then pitching duels where each team is held to only 1 hit.  Purists such as myself however love them.  But if people want to see drugged up giants trouncing around performing beyond what normal humans can do should it be allowed?  Or if a player can perform better with a corked up bat should that be allowed?

That is why I look at players such as Cal Ripken Jr or Nolan Ryan or Roger Maris in a much different light then I view the steroid giants of today's game.  What would it teach our kids if we allow players such as McGwire or Bonds into the Hall of Fame?  That it's ok to cheat because you will be rewarded in the long run?

I almost think we'd be better off with two baseball leagues.  A true baseball league where players perform to the best of their abilities and that's it and a WWE type league where it is more about the show then true ability.

Ah such is the game of baseball and that is what makes it great.  Everyone can tell a story of the greats and the not so greats, the heroes and the dirty side of the game.  In the future I'm sure I will share more stories with you all about them all and I welcome you all to share your own as well.