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Clemens, Bonds and Sosa cheated and lied, but they're hardly the first

By RICK WOODSON
On Sports
Rochester Business Journal
January 18, 2013

Now that Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa have not been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, the next question is "Will they ever make it to Cooperstown?" And if they do, will they still be around to see it, or will they be so old they'll ask, "Uh, what's the Hall of Fame?"
 
Was anyone surprised that nobody on the ballot made it, not even Craig Biggio, who is 20th on the all-time career hit list with 3,060? I doubt it. The PED era-performance-enhancing drugs-has turned every voter's thumbs down. Hey, Clemens, Bonds, Sosa and no telling how many others cheated and broke the rules, then denied it, lied, played dumb and did everything other than come out with hat in hand and admit their guilt.
 
This year was only the eighth since 1936 when no former player was voted into the Hall of Fame.
 
If Bonds did not use a PED, steroids or growth hormones, then how in the name of the Louisville Slugger was he able to hit 73 home runs in 2001, when he was 36 years old? Even ignoring his age, 73 homers was 24 more than he had ever hit in one season, his previous best being 49 in 2000. Sure, he was a great player, but that's not the point. The same goes for Clemens and Mark McGwire.
 
It takes 75 percent of those in the Baseball Writers' Association voting for a player to elect him to the Hall of Fame. And while I totally agree with Clemens, Bonds and Sosa not getting anywhere near enough votes to get in-Clemens 37.6 percent, Bonds 36.2 percent, Sosa 12.5 percent-I am still somewhat uncomfortable with it.
 
OK, so they cheated and lied. But what else is new in the Grand Old Pastime-or, for that matter, any pro sport other than you know what? (Whoever said "cheaters never win" didn't have a clue. Right, Lance Armstrong?) Baseball players all the way back to quilted pants, circa 1900, have done whatever they thought they could get away with to get a hit, strike out a batter, win, etc., some on the field and some off the field.
 
How about Tyrus Raymond Cobb-Ty Cobb, the Georgia Peach? Legendary manager Connie Mack once called Cobb "the dirtiest player I ever saw." Baseball history says Cobb, the No. 4 base stealer in history with 892, sat where the other team's infielders could see him before a game and sharpened the steel spikes on his shoes.
 
According to his biography, Cobb once responded to a handicapped fan's yelling at him during a game in New York by jumping into the stands and throwing punches at the guy. And, of course, Cobb had many run-ins with black people and was considered a racist. He was definitely one of baseball's greatest players and maybe its biggest jerk. For years, even his teammates couldn't stand Cobb!
 
There have been major-league pitchers-maybe many-who doctored the baseball before a pitch, either spitting on it, rubbing Vaseline on it or doing whatever it took to make the ball wobble or take a dive as it reached home plate. Yankees great Whitey Ford reportedly scratched the ball with his wedding ring or had catcher Elston Howard do it with his belt buckle. And Ford even said he made mud pies around the mound and threw what he called a "gunk ball."
 
Oh, and we can't forget those batters who used illegal corked bats to get more jump on the ball when they hit it, like Detroit Tigers great Norm Cash. And some of the aforementioned "cheaters" are in the Hall of Fame.
 
Finally, how do we not mention Babe Ruth, the Bambino, the Sultan of Swat? Legend has it that Ruth was a party animal who loved beer and babes, like most of today's players. The word was that Ruth had a concession guy who would slip him a hotdog while he waited in the on-deck circle.
 
In his biography, "The Babe: The Legend Comes to Life," a teammate was asked what it was like to room with the Babe, and the teammate said, "I don't room with the Babe; I room with his suitcase." The Yankees checked into the hotel on a road trip, and Ruth dropped off his suitcase before heading to the bar.
 
All this stuff brings me to Derek Jeter. There is no doubt in my baseball mind that Jeter will be a first-ballot pick for the Hall of Fame. He has had a great, stain-free career, and let's hope it stays that way till he hangs up the pinstripes and calls it a day.
 
There have been many pro players-yes, even some golfers-who were anything but Goody Two Shoes. There have been and will be more who abused women, beat up guys in bars, drove drunk, etc. So let's hang around and see what happens to Bonds, Clemens and Sosa down the road-way down the road.

Rick Woodson's column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at www.rbjdaily.com. His book, "Words of Woodson," is available at www.authorhouse.com/bookstore. Listen to his weekly program, "The Golf Tee," at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.1/17/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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