Baseball goes down looking on steriod issue

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By | March 15, 2005

OPINION AND ANALYSIS Baseball goes down looking on steroid issue By Charita M. Goshay Squat and lumpy, he’s built like a burlap bag filled with shoes. Thing is, he didn’t look all that much different during his playing days.{{more}}Still, who’s been a better ambassador for baseball than Yogi Berra? With bodies as wiry as their personalities, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio probably wouldn’t earn a second glance by a modern-day baseball scout based on their physiques.Apart from the obvious, one of the early, unfounded criticisms of Jackie Robinson was that he was too muscular to have much bat speed; but film clips of Robinson show that he’s downright sleek compared to some the bat-wielding behemoths playing today.Beer-bellied and bird-legged, Babe Ruth couldn’t get a job as ball boy in 2005.Yet, somehow, they all managed to become the best baseball has ever seen, brilliant athletes and Hall of Famers, armed with nothing but talent. Not that they were choir boys. Many were boozers and brawlers and womanizers. Certainly, Ty Cobb could have used some Prozac.But they weren’t linebackers masquerading as left fielders.The recent Congressional dog-and-pony show staged to examine steroid abuse stripped away the nostalgic feeling that has swaddled baseball for so many years. The hearing did little more than show that baseball is no different from any other big business. It’s occupied by people hell-bent on making as much money for as long as possible.Someone remarked that Mark McGwire looked like a nervous Mafia don during his Congressional testimony; one who must have hired his attorney from an unemployment line.Not even the parents of boys who had committed suicide because of steroid abuse could shake McGwire from his blubbering stonewalling.To the silent satisfaction of every guy who was ever elbowed into a locker by a herd of lettermen, McGwire’s stature shrank quicker than his body; from the greatest American hero, to a dead-on imitation of a big, dumb jock. Almost as bad as steroid accusations is the presumption that fans are stupid.Since when has Sammy Sosa been at a loss for words?Then there’s the math. For 70 years, the number of players hitting 50-home runs in a season was in the single digits. In the 1990s, virtually everyone except the beer man was doing it.Though he refuses to answer the steroid question, Barry Bonds, the eye of the storm, claims he’s being driven out of baseball by a prejudiced media that has always been resentful of his success.Contrary to rumor, media-types are people too, and as such, some probably do resent having to chase down rich, black, college dropouts for a quote, only to be told what to do with their notebooks.If you consistently treat sportswriters like something you found on the bottom of your shoe – which is what Bonds does – guess what?Not every player is juiced; in fact, it’s safe to say that most aren’t, but even one is too many. As long as baseball circles the wagons and downplays the issue, it only underscores the feeling that today’s players may have become a lot bigger, but certainly not greater.Charita M. Goshay is a writer at The Repository in Canton, Ohio.Visit Copley News Service at TOP