The overlooked History of Illegal Drugs in Baseball

Too often people are sheep when it comes to discussing performance enhancing and or illegal drugs  in our beloved pastime. Way too many fans ignorantly believe our beloved pastime was pure before Jose Canseco and his bash brother twin  Mark McGwire rose to prominence. Is it the fan’s fault for being blindly led by media figures into believing that the stars of the steroid era were the evil villains out to ruin baseball? No. I think much of the blame can be placed obviously with MLB itself. However the biggest mis-leader of the sheep is the MEDIA.

Let’s face it, baseball has been dirty for several decades. If this is a shock to you then you need to turn off ESPN and do some research. And since you’re here I’ll lead you in the right direction…..Amphetamines (AKA Greenies). Beginning in the 60s and lasting all the way up to their 2005 ban, illegal amphetamines were the most widely abused drug in baseball. Pete Rose and Hank Aaron are two of the biggest names that have confessed to amphetamine use. In addition, Willie Mays and Willie Stargell have been linked to both the use and selling of those illegal little green pills.  The use of amphetamines were so rampant during the 70s that it is said that there were 2 coffee pots in team clubhouses. But one of them wasn’t your standard decaf. One of the two pots was not laced with amphetamines. Plus, teams were lacing everything with them. So even if a player from the 70s says he didn’t take them then there is still a very good chance that he took them without even knowing about it.

If this is news to you then you are probably now saying, “So what? Speed is nothing compared to steroids.” I’m not going to debate which substance is the greater performance enhancer because I do believe steroids enhance performance more than amphetamines. However it’s interesting to note that home run totals dropped more after the amphetamine ban than they did when steroid testing began. It’s also interesting to note that Hank Aaron claimed to have only used them once while slumping in 1968. After 1968 he had an immediate resurgence at the plate. Was he taking amphetamines on a regular basis after 1968? Most likely he was. Would any of us believe Roger Clemens if he said he only took steroids once? Hell no we wouldn’t! The point I’m getting too is it impossible to speculate on how much a substance enhanced a player. It is quite possible that without the aid of speed Hammering Hank never would have became the All-Time Home Run Leader. But there is no way to prove that one way or another. It’s just speculation. we can speculate as much as we want but we’ll never know how good a player would have been without the aid of an illegal substance.

Could Aaron have reached 715 without a little extra help?

It’s also important to note the difference in media coverage today. Could you imagine there was 24/7 sports coverage in the 60s and 70s? If there was then Hammering Hank and every other player would have been criticized like the players that have been linked to steroids. Just think about all the talk that would have swirled around Aaron in his pursuit of the Babe’s record. Every sports reporter would question whether or not he was on amphetamines. All the talk would be about whether or not he should be honored as the true HR champ.

It’s funny how much technology changes society. Today’s media coverage is unreal. I just wish the aging members of the mainstream media would not overlook the figures that were icons during their youth. The fact that they give those players a free pass while crucifying today’s players is ridiculous.

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