Tag Archives: Reggie Jackson

Speaking of *steroids …

I came within four questions of running the board Thursday on “Double Jeopardy!,” and I nailed “Final Jeopardy!” — who was Monet? — while only one of the teacher contestants got it. I was on fire.

Well, not literally, but feverish, but also hyper focused, which is extremely rare for me. I often do well with “Jeopardy!” questions — Wednesday’s final answer, “Who was Brutus?,” stumped the contestants but not me — yet I must confess that Thursday’s results might be tainted.

I was hopped up on steroids. That’s right: I was using performance-enhancing drugs. (Prednisone).

The two Major Leaguers banned in the last two weeks for using steroids probably weren’t being treated for pneumonia, as is the case with me, but the infractions (Melky Cabrera’s and Bartolo Colon’s, not mine) have the sports talkers buzzing. So here’s what I want to say to the Hall of Fame voters, those wholesome, sober, fastidious, faithful-to-wives sports writers.

If a player admitted cheating (see: Jose Canseco) or has been banned for using performance-enhancers (M. Cabrera, Colon, et al), they shouldn’t be eligible for the Hall. Case closed.

Otherwise: Shut up.

Roger Clemens. Hall of Fame.

Barry Bonds. Hall of Fame.

Mark McGwire. PLEASE. Hall of Fame!

Before I give you my take on the Steroid Era, let’s shine the light on the Greenie Era, that period of the 1970’s and early 80’s when The Big Red Machine, certain Pittsburgh Pirates, now Hall of Fame Philadelphia Phillies and many others were fueled by something other than their sheer love of the game. Back in the late-80’s I basically stumbled into a friendship with Ken Reitz, former Cardinals third baseman and later a Cub and Pirate, who also had some unpleasantness with the Commissioner’s office for the substance abuse that eventually wrecked his career.

He swore me to secrecy, but dropped the names of some of the game’s biggest stars. If not for the “greenies” — speed, amphetamines — that players popped incessantly to deal with the brutal grind of a 162-game season and the advent of something new, a thing called “free agency,” many of those players wouldn’t have lasted past mid-August. They pepped up with speed and air-braked with booze.

And management knew it; maybe more than tolerated it. Reitz told me he played for a Pirates team that had greenies in bowls like M&M’s. The die was cast for my future opinion about the Steroid Era when he told me — by names — the sports writers who routinely helped themselves to an occasional “treat.”

It’s the writers who cast Hall of Fame votes.

Was Barry Bonds “dirty?” Probably. But for his entire career? Probably not. Did the cocktail of “supplements” that Mark McGwire ingested enhance his performance? (Define “enhance.”) Did he suddenly learn to hit a baseball? Were they illegal? Technically, no. Did those needles really pierce The Rocket’s posterior? He says not.

So we don’t really know, and if you think that view is so naive that it’s laughable, consider that we also don’t know how many of those massive moon-shots that McGwire hit while he and Sammy Sosa were SAVING baseball in 1998 were hit off “enhanced” pitchers. Roger Clemens seemed to have the best years of his career in his twilight. If he was “juiced,” how many of the batters he had to face were also supplementing?

I am NOT saying that two wrongs make a right. I’m saying that the information that exists isn’t strong or consistent enough to be fairly and uniformly applied by the sanctimonious hypocrites that form the fraternity of the Baseball Writers Association of America. How did Cal Ripken Jr. perform so well for so long? Derek Jeter?

Albert Pujols?

Until there’s standard, reliable and accurate testing, cheating will occur. So let’s test and boot the cheaters. But when we single out the ones we’re most comfortable seeing as villains — Bonds, McGwire, A-Rod, Clemens — it leaves a haze of suspicion over the others. And it completely ignores that some of the game’s greatest from 30 and 40 years ago — several with uniforms, balls, gloves or bats safely ensconced and gathering dust by now at Cooperstown — got a wink and a nod on their way to enshrinement. (What about The Babe? How did Joe DiMaggio endure that 56-game hitting streak? Didn’t The Mick use some sort of pain-killer for those awful knees? And even if Ty Cobb was clean, he was a horrible human being, one of the nastiest, meanest to ever walk the planet. Maybe it was ‘Roid Rage that prompted him to go into the stands and beat up a one-armed man?)

Finally, I hope Roger Clemens, age 50, does return to the mound for an encore. In fact, he needs just 20 wins to become No. 3 on the all-time wins list. Is he an arrogant ass? Seems so. Could he actually pull it off? Probably not, no way.

But I’d love to see him try.

The Top 10 Favorite Players of My Lifetime

To make these lists, I actually had to see the player play — in person. My honorable mention 20, in no particular order:

David Freese; Hal McRae; Frank Howard; Rollie Fingers; Gaylord Perry; Al Hrabosky; Johnny Bench; John Mayberry Sr.; Rod Carew; Brooks Robinson; Cookie Rojas; Bob Gibson; Freddie Patek; Willie McGee; Catfish Hunter; Bo Jackson; Cal Ripken Jr.; Darrell Porter; Willie Stargell; Pete Rose (who should be in the Hall). I saw Barry Bonds as a Pirate and a Giant. But he’s not a favorite. But he belongs in the Hall.

Top 10, in order: George Brett; Paul Molitor; Nolan Ryan; Mark McGwire; Derek Jeter; Reggie Jackson; Hank Aaron; Carl Yastrzemski; Albert Pujols (No. 3 until he went west); Ozzie Smith.

Now: I DARE you to put an asterisk next to any of those names.

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The written record, etched in time

Countdown to Kianna

Eighteen days, 17, 16, 15, 14 — two weeks until Feb. 19, the date that Kianna Allene Brown is set to arrive.

Kelly — Grammy — finished sewing two mattress covers for Baby Kianna on Saturday, so it’s time. After we attend church with Kishia and Darnell this morning at One in Christ Baptist Church in Jefferson City, maybe we can have a little lunch and then drive to Boone Hospital to get little Kianna delivered.

Sure. Good plan.

The written record(s)

I love my job as a news reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune. Thirty years ago when I started in this profession, I reacted to my byline with a reaction of, “How cool! My name’s in the paper. I wrote that article.”

The ego-boosting property of one or more daily bylines isn’t what it used to be, but I’m still amazed that I get to go to work every day as a reporter. I barely have two years of college on my resume’ and it’s that lack of formal education, among other things, that often leaves me feeling like I don’t belong. I still smile almost every time I walk through the Tribune doors. I can’t believe I get to make a living doing what I hoped I’d be doing when I was 13.

Before that I was planning to attend college at Arizona State University – probably on a baseball scholarship (of course) – and pursue the love of the first decade and three years of my life: Reptiles. ASU is the college Reggie Jackson attended before embarking on a Hall of Fame baseball career, but more than that, ASU at the time had the nation’s preeminent herpetology program.

Seriously. I was sure I was born to be a herpetologist – a reptile scientist. (Not “reptilian” scientist, like the aliens in “V.” But that would have been cool, too). I’d probably specialize in snakes and lizards. Besides, I was already on my way to “expert” status with all the snakes and/or lizards I’d already captured, studied, fed and been bitten by.

Eventually, though, I realized there was one problem.

Math.

The prerequisites for admission to the Arizona State herpetology program included all the advanced math and science that was available on the planet, which meant that most of those courses weren’t available at Maries County R-2 High School in Belle, Mo. I was a “B” student in algebra 1 and 2, and geometry, but I had to absolutely bust my hump to get that grade.

Nothing else in high school – with the exception of my principal – gave me as much grief as math. Time for trig and calculus?

See ya.

And that’s basically how I ended up a journalist. I figured I wouldn’t need advanced math for this profession and – sorry, Mr. Fann – I was right. Anyway, it worked out pretty well. Not that many jobs out there for herpetologists, I suppose.

Last night I shuffled through a Rubbermaid tub of old newspapers and clips with my byline. I’ve been a reporter, stringer, sports writer or editor for: The Belle Banner (my hometown newspaper, including sister papers The Bland Courier and the Maries County Gazette-Advisor in Vienna); The Muleskinner (campus paper at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg); the Gasconade County Republican weekly newspaper in Owensville; the Post-Tribune and Daily Capital News, evening and morning editions of the Jefferson City News Tribune; South Callaway Courier weekly newspaper in Holts Summit, which eventually became the twice-weekly Callaway Courier and then the daily Callaway Courier, and then back to the weekly Courier – mostly with a three-person staff; the Fulton Sun; Hannibal Courier-Post; Mexico Ledger; Quincy Herald-Whig; California Democrat; Centralia Fireside Guard; my own Northern Boone County Bullseye, which published 202 editions before “expiring” in September 2008; and the Columbia Daily Tribune. Countless bylines attached to articles picked up by The Associated Press have appeared from coast to coast.

That makes me almost laugh out loud with glee. I can’t believe I’ve been able to do this for a living. It makes me think of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer is mistaken for an employee at a big company until finally he writes a business report and the boss says something like, “This stinks. It’s as if you have no business training at all.”

I keep waiting for someone (besides an angry reader) to tell me that.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #23

The birds have been singing a little more loudly the past few mornings. I keep bird seed available in a couple of feeders, one of which gets raided by the squirrels. I can’t wait for you to discover things like squirrels and birds and earthworms and crickets and the hidden world of creatures that lives in the grass in your own backyard.

We’ll look through a telescope into the cosmos. We’ll grow our own paramecium and look at them under a microscope.

There’s so much to hear, see, feel, taste and smell. (Note to Grandpa: there’s another story entirely about “smell.” Maybe later. Right, Kishia?)

It’s gonna be GREAT!

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