PART 4: HALL OF FAME CONNECTIONS INFILTRATES FAMILIES

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Check out the earlier parts first if you haven’t yet!

After getting his college degree at Humboldt  State (Calif.) – Giants and A’s country, incidentally – my baseball-loving son Danny moved away to Tallahassee, Florida. Master’s degree. Marriage to Sara. Job. Career. A son, Elliott. While he claimed that his baseball interests died a little because he had no one around to share it, I’d long suspected that baseball’s PED controversies chipped away at how he viewed baseball.

“I don’t think it’s fair, Dad, that those guys are kept out of the Hall of Fame.”

I blame the unfairness and ineptitude of the media for killing Danny’s baseball love. I think he does, too.

Danny, plus my youngest son, Chet, aren’t advocating PED use. All they see is a widespread dose of unequal justice. They see media corruption. In other words, the players didn’t do any more wrong than the media did in failing to properly cover the corruption. How can they be allowed into the selection process when they failed at their own reporting assignments?

By voting those same players – Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, et al – as MVP or Cy Young winners, that fraternity of media was also part of the problem. It’s some of the more disgusting acts of hypocrisy. Many held out their votes for the Hall of Fame.

Many of those media types show up on TV, or as columnists, or on blogs, nodding, saying, “See? See? We told ya.”

They watched Verducci, “Game of Shadows” and Jose Canseco break the stories, or write their books. In effect, they got scooped. They piggy-backed on their research to stand up against PED users.

Jose Canseco (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)
Maybe Jose Canseco was as much of a hero off the field as he was on the field – using PED, then later confessing to the process. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Where were they when it counted? As sports editor of a small-city newspaper, I relied on their expertise and frontline coverage to properly present readers with stories. I wasn’t in MLB clubhouses like they were.

They’re not guardians of the Hall of Fame gates as they proclaim themselves. In fact, it wasn’t until after all of those golden on-field moments took place when they took action. Too late.

It’s a simple fact for Danny: Baseball’s over, at least in his mind. The sport has lost a fan.

Chet continues to surge ahead. His love for the game continues. His disgust for the Hall of Fame criteria, however, has increased. For the media. For the Hall voters, he’s spewing out total acrimony. Each January for the past few years, Chet seethes over the perceived injustice.

Brown_Chet
My son, Chet, doesn’t like the current Hall of Fame practices, but he still loves the game.

He questions Selig’s own 2017 induction, claiming that it was under his watch that baseball’s PED involvement had surged to unforeseen heights.

How dare Selig be allowed in while Bonds, among others, has been kept out. If the media, Commissioner’s office, not to mention each team had done its respective jobs, PED usage would’ve been exposed early enough and, perhaps, stamped out.

I don’t think Chet’s the only one that feels this way.

Previous Hall inductees Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre should’ve and could have known. La Russa fronted for McGwire with the media. He took up on McGwire’s side, pushing away media that dared to assault the single season HR record holder. For years, too.

Until McGwire confessed.

Torre and Cox, too, had guys in their clubhouses – Sheffield, Canseco, Man-Ram, A-Rod, plus others – that enhanced their playing efforts by using PED. World Series championships were claimed with “dirty” players on their rosters.

Weren’t those managers also part of the problem? Let’s give them benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps they didn’t encourage PEDs. But it was happening under their very noses. In their clubhouses. Did nothing to help clean up their sport.

Somehow, they all got a Hall pass to Cooperstown.

You almost get tired of hearing the refrain from voters, or the observers that don’t have a vote but want to interfere.

“Bonds was on his way to the Hall of Fame until 1998. But …”

There is no “but.”

What’s left is a mess. Millions like Danny and Chet continue to, perhaps, fret at the notion that suspected PED users Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez have been inducted. Meanwhile, some of baseball’s brightest stars have been left out.

It’s a deeply personal conclusion to a saga that won’t go away.

PART 2: HALL OF FAME CONNECTIONS INFILTRATES FAMILIES

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

If you haven’t yet, check out part 1 first.

Baseball fans love their hometown players.

It’s complete acceptance. Much like, perhaps, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, or Astros fans whenever Roger Clemens took the mound. Or a Cubs fan when Sammy Sosa stepped into the batter’s box. Oakland and Cardinals’ fans had Mark McGwire. Gary Sheffield showed up in L.A., Miami, Atlanta and New York. The Red Sox and Dodgers, plus the Indians, watched Manny Ramirez skyrocket dozens of balls over fences. Alex Rodriguez was magnificent during his days in Seattle, Texas and New York.

You think those fans aren’t affected by Hall of Fame corruption? That corruption was media-driven.

Barry Bonds, reviled by rival fans, was beloved in San Francisco.

My son, Chet, saw Bonds strike home runs in San Francisco, at Dodger Stadium, plus both ballparks in San Diego, Jack Murphy Stadium and Petco Park. Throw in a significant bomb at Anaheim. Game 6, 2002 World Series.

When Bonds showed up in BALCO reports, law enforcement investigations, plus various other significant bodies – including a Federal government trial – Chet’s view was that his baseball achievements should remain intact.

Chet is furious that Bonds – he wasn’t necessarily a fan of Roger Clemens – wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame.

He’s heard me say it for years.

That the same fraternity of media that voted MVP and Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove honors had also voted to keep significant players out of Cooperstown, the New York-based site of the Hall of Fame.

It was right under the media’s corrupt noses that PED usage was taking place.

Corrupt …

… in that all major teams, from its ownership and management to its medical staffs and dugout personnel, had to know.

… the stain and stench reaches all the way up to the Commissioner’s office – Peter Uebberoth, Bart Giamatti, Faye Vincent and Bud Selig. If they didn’t know, they’re ignorant. If they did know, they did nothing.

… baseball’s player union, which deflected away testing procedures that would’ve kept the sport clean.

Tom Verducci (Photo by Wikpidia Commons)
Tom Verducci wrote an eye-opening article for Sports Illustrated in May 2002, perhaps one of the first big breaks in reporting PED use among MLB players. For years, deep and insightful reporting was missing from the PED story. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Sports Illustrated Tom Verducci gets a huge “Hall” pass for a significant article he wrote in 2002. San Diego Padres’ third baseman Ken Caminiti, an admitted PED user and one-time National League MVP (voted on by the media, incidentally), was quoted by Verducci saying 50 percent of baseball players were using enhancements.

Over a decade earlier, Canseco was besieged by Red Sox fans during the playoffs against Oakland. In Boston. “Sterrrrroids. Sterrrrroids. Sterrrrroids.” They all chanted.

Canseco, for his part, struck a Greek god-like posture, flexing for them, kiddingly posing for those Fenway Park fans.

That was 1990, or ’91. Where was baseball’s media? You’d think they’d pick up on a story like that. It took over a decade before the story broke. When it did break, Canseco’s first book created the eventual storm.

The media got scooped.

Hundreds of news outlets – print, TV, radio, you name it – were planted in each major league city. Coast to coast. ABC. CBS. NBC. ESPN. CNN. Where were these journalists? Didn’t you guys remember Woodward and Bernstein, the two Washington reporters who broke Watergate a generation earlier?

The media could’ve headed off the PED era right away. It wasn’t enough to simply offer speculation. Or blind rage. Or ask questions, that players denied using.

They didn’t dig for stories.

Eventually, Canseco wrote two books, naming names.

Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams wrote “Game of Shadows,” detailing the BALCO raids and subsequent legal connections.

I once wrote a column about that, noting significant names of those media personalities that didn’t properly do its job. Amazingly, one of those names I’d mentioned, Bob Costas, contacted me.

“I don’t want to you to think I surf the net, looking for my name,” said Costas in one of two communications I had with the longtime NBC sportscaster. “A friend of mine in California sent me a copy of your article.”

I promised Costas our conversation would be off the record. To this day, I won’t reveal anything we discussed further. I will share this, however: He told me that he called the MLB All-Star game, I think back in 2002, and spent the entire game bemoaning the state of baseball with all its PED usage. He was, in effect, calling them out.

Bob_Costas (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)
Longtime NBC sportscaster Bob Costas called to talk with me about the state of steroids after a column I wrote about what the media had missed all those years. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Costas said he received plenty of blowback from the players and its union.

My own complaint was that kind of unspecific coverage meant nothing until evidence was produced, such as Verducci’s SI piece.

“Howard Cosell,” I said, mentioning ABC’s legendary tough-as-nails broadcaster a couple decades earlier, “would’ve gotten to the bottom of this.”

It was great talking with Costas, but he only underscored the problem. Media was largely responsible for the outbreak of PED use. By not rooting out its issues, exposing the sinners and shutting down the freakage use of PEDs in its early stages, all talk was cheap.