Friday, January 22, 2010

Two myths about 1998

I'd like to (once again) take a stand at what appears to be generally accepted wisdom about the height of the steroid era in baseball: 1998 to 2001 or so.

First, the oft-cited "fact" that steroids were not illegal in baseball at that time. They were not specifically banned, sure, but in 1971 a clause was inserted into the players' agreement which banned the use of any drug not prescribed for a valid medical purpose. Steroids, HGH, and so on did not need to be named individually. They were illegal. End of story.

Second, the even more oft-cited "fact" that baseball was saved by the home run chase in 1998. That only then did all the bitterness of the previous years melt away. That no one watched the epic 1997 World Series, that no Yankees fans celebrated wildly at their return to glory in 1996, that Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey, Jr. and the amazing Indians and Braves got no love in 1995's postseason. Oh, yeah, and then there was Cal Ripken, Jr. Remember him? Remember the streak? If you want the event that saved baseball, look at September 6, 1995. A 22 minute ovation for the mere fact of a game reaching the middle of the fifth. A home run shot that sent shivers down my spine, even as I followed along on ESPN's website from Australia. There was no strike bitterness that day. There was unbridled joy. Cal Ripken saved baseball, if anyone did.

Enough selective memory, people. Look at the whole story.

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