Joe Morgan sends letter to Hall of Fame voters: 'Steroid users don’t belong here'

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Joe Morgan, seen here waving his hat to the crowd at a Reds game in 2017, has very strong feelings about steroid users in the Hall of Fame. (AP Photo)
Joe Morgan, seen here waving his hat to the crowd at a Reds game in 2017, has very strong feelings about steroid users in the Hall of Fame. (AP Photo)

Every Hall of Fame season brings the same debate: should admitted steroid users be allowed in the Hall of Fame? There are many valid positions on that issue, but we now know how Hall of Famer Joe Morgan feels about it. And make no mistake: he does not want steroid users in the Hall of Fame.

Morgan made his feelings known in an email he sent to Hall of Fame voters, and reported by Cincinnati Reds beat writer C. Trent Rosecrans. The (lengthy) email is below.

Dear C. Trent:

Over the years, I have been approached by many Hall of Fame members telling me we needed to do something to speak out about the possibility of steroid users entering the Hall of Fame. This issue has been bubbling below the surface for quite a while.

I hope you don’t mind if I bring to your attention what I’m hearing.

Please keep in mind I don’t speak for every single member of the Hall of Fame. I don’t know how everyone feels, but I do know how many of the Hall of Famers feel.

I, along with other Hall of Fame Baseball players, have the deepest respect for you and all the writers who vote to decide who enters Baseball’s most hallowed shrine, the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For some 80 years, the men and women of the BBWAA have cast ballots that have made the Hall into the wonderful place it is.

I think the Hall of Fame is special. There is a sanctity to being elected to the Hall. It is revered. It is the hardest Hall of Fame to enter, of any sport in America.

But times change, and a day we all knew was coming has now arrived. Players who played during the steroid era have become eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame.

The more we Hall of Famers talk about this – and we talk about it a lot – we realize we can no longer sit silent. Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity. Or that fans might think we are ok if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in Baseball. We don’t want fans ever to think that.

We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.

Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in. Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.

Now, I recognize there are players identified as users on the Mitchell Report who deny they were users. That’s why this is a tricky issue. Not everything is black and white – there are shades of gray here. It’s why your job as a voter is and has always been a difficult and important job. I have faith in your judgment and know that ultimately, this is your call.

But it still occurs to me that anyone who took body-altering chemicals in a deliberate effort to cheat the game we love, not to mention they cheated current and former players, and fans too, doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. By cheating, they put up huge numbers, and they made great players who didn’t cheat look smaller by comparison, taking away from their achievements and consideration for the Hall of Fame. That’s not right.

And that’s why I, and other Hall of Famers, feel so strongly about this.It’s gotten to the point where Hall of Famers are saying that if steroid users get in, they’ll no longer come to Cooperstown for Induction Ceremonies or other events. Some feel they can’t share a stage with players who did steroids. The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too. The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.

Section 5 of the Rules for Election states, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

I care about how good a player was or what kind of numbers he put up; but if a player did steroids, his integrity is suspect; he lacks sportsmanship; his character is flawed; and, whatever contribution he made to his team is now dwarfed by his selfishness.

Steroid use put Baseball through a tainted era where records were shattered. “It was a steroidal farce,” wrote Michael Powell in the New York Times. It is no accident that those records held up for decades until the steroid era began, and they haven’t been broken since the steroid era ended. Sadly, steroids worked.

Dan Naulty was a journeyman pitcher in the late 1990s who admitted he took steroids, noting that his fastball went from 87 to 96. He told Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci in 2012, “I was a full-blown cheater, and I knew it. You didn’t need a written rule. I was violating clear principles that were laid down within the rules. I understood I was violating implicit principles.”

The Hall of Fame has always had its share of colorful characters, some of whom broke or bent society’s rules in their era. By today’s standards, some might not have gotten in. Times change and society improves. What once was accepted no longer is.

But steroid users don’t belong here. What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.

Steroid users knew they were taking a drug that physically improved how they played. Taking steroids is a decision. It’s the deliberate act of using chemistry to change how hard you hit and throw by changing what your body is made of.

I and other Hall of Famers played hard all our lives to achieve what we did. I love this game and am proud of it. I hope the Hall of Fame’s standards won’t be lowered with the passage of time.

For over eighty years, the Hall of Fame has been a place to look up to, where the hallowed halls honor those who played the game hard and right. I hope it will always remain that way.

Joe Morgan
Hall of Fame Class of 1990
Vice Chairman

P.S. Families come to Cooperstown because they know it’s special. To parents, it’s a place they can take their kids for an uplifting, feel-good visit. It’s a place where kids can see what true greatness is all about. It’s a place where youngsters can dream that one day they too might get in. This place is special. I hope it stays that way.

Joe certainly has some very strong feelings. But first and foremost, how did Morgan get the email addresses of every Hall of Fame voter? It turns out he didn’t. According to Rosecrans, the email was written by Morgan but sent out by the Hall of Fame itself. That doesn’t leave a lot of question about the stance of the Hall of Fame on the steroid issue, and it makes you wonder: if a prominent Hall of Fame member wanted to send out an email asking voting members to please consider steroid users, would they have sent it?

When asked whether Morgan’s comments are representative of the Hall’s views on steroid users, a spokesperson told Yahoo Sports “This is a Hall of Famer initiative. The Hall of Fame’s role was to support our players who feel so strongly about this that they decided to speak out. They took the lead in putting the piece together, and asked for us to help them get their message out.”

One thing that Morgan and his fellow Hall of Famers are forgetting here is that there is really no need for him to bring this issue to anyone’s attention, let alone the writers who vote for the Hall of Fame. This issue is never far from their minds when they’re casting their Hall of Fame votes. It is THE preeminent question of this generation of writers, not to mention players and fans. It’s discussed at length every November and December, because it’s an issue that many writers take seriously, whether they agree with Morgan or not.

Morgan is also conveniently forgetting that steroids aren’t the only body-altering chemicals a ballplayer can take. Many players of his generation took amphetamines, which are stimulants used to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. They make you more awake and alert. Amphetamines like Adderall are now a banned substance in baseball, which they weren’t when Morgan was playing for the Big Red Machine. So there are already players in the Hall of Fame who cheated, Morgan just doesn’t look at it that way.

Morgan obviously thinks the tide is turning on the opinion of steroid users in the Hall of Fame, especially with Barry Bonds gaining more and more ground every year. So he’s using what power he has to try and influence the vote, because he (and other Hall of Famers) don’t think that steroid users belong. But it’s not his choice. Or the choice of any enshrined player. The power to vote a player into the Hall of Fame belongs to the writers. And we’ll all just have to wait and see if Morgan’s letter helps his cause, or hurts it.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher