A longtime advocate of clean living when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, new Hall of Famer Frank Thomas says he agrees with others in Cooperstown who say "we don't want PED users among us."
Here are the Big Hurt's relevant comments that were printed in the New York Post on Friday, two days after he was elected to the Hall on the first ballot:
Thomas has been at charity events with some of the biggest legends in the game the past two years and talked about the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
“I had that debate with [Hall of Famers] about a couple players and they said, ‘Yeah, we understand how good they were, but they made that decision to do what they did and we don’t want them in Cooperstown.’ That was eye-opening for me because a couple of those guys being investigated and everything else, are two of the greatest players we’ve ever seen.’’
Bonds and Clemens lost ground this year among Baseball Writers Association of America voters.
“It’s sad that they are not going to be in the Hall of Fame probably, but I have to respect the leaders and the Hall of Famers because their legacy is what they have,’’ Thomas said. “They said, ‘Don’t be feeling sorry for [them]. This is Cooperstown. There is a reason we have rules and regulations, and the people here earned it the right way, and we are not going to let guys in that did drugs. That’s just the way it is.’ "
The first problem with an opinion like "We need to keep PED users out of the Hall of Fame" is an obvious one: They're already in there.
James Francis Galvin — you might know him as "Pud" — was a 19th century star who retired in 1892 as the game's winningest pitcher. And that meant something in those days because Galvin completed 646 (second all-time) of 688 career starts and threw 57 shutouts. He was elected in 1965 by a committee of veterans.
Back in the day, Galvin also was known widely for taking performance-enhancing drugs. As David Pincus wrote in The Classical, Galvin took "an elixir concocted by medical practitioner Charles Brown-Sequard." His research concluded that "the reproductive organs in animals could rejuvenate the human body and impede the aging process." Sounds like he could have co-founded BALCO. And what comprised this concoction? WARNING: It might turn your stomach:
"I have made use,"Brown-Sequard would write, "in subcutaneous injections, of a liquid containing a very small quantity of water mixed with the three following parts: First, blood of the testicular veins; secondly, semen; and thirdly, juice extracted from a testicle, crushed immediately after it has been taken from a dog or a guinea-pig." (And you thought your health shake was disgusting.)
Did crushed dog balls work for Galvin? It probably gave him confidence. Beyond that, it's hard to say. Galvin being the only one of his kind in Cooperstown is doubtful. Not only that, it's also likely that some MLB players are still juicing, even though it's been against the rules expressly since 2005. Thomas repeatedly has said he didn't 'roid up, but all we have is his word.
Here's another likelihood: The Hall of Fame players Thomas spoke with took amphetamines during their careers. Speed and steroids do different things to the body as Bob Costas and others might argue, but at least one thing about them is the same: Athletes take them because they're trying to gain an edge. Amphetamines also are banned by MLB without a prescription, but weren't until '05.
Hank Aaron said he experimented with amphetamines when he played. You want to kick him out of the Hall? Seems kind of unfair, given that amphetamines weren't expressly against the rules when he played, but hey — Cooperstown's own wants to clean the place up, so they should start at the top. Many in Aaron's generation of ballplayers did speed, and they weren't just experimenting. So many, that contemporary HOF voters wouldn't know what to do with Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson if they came up for election tomorrow.
On the one hand, we could not have a Hall of Fame anymore, or delete Major League Baseball, for that matter. Or we could have them, and acknowledge that — like any other institutions — they're imperfect.
If Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens ever get into the Hall, they'll be right where they belong: Among a small group of the greatest ballplayers, any number of whom are suspect.
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