MLB should step up; restore Maris’ record

MLB should step up; restore Maris' record by the Plain Talk Ahhh ? spring.

A time of new life, the smell of newly trimmed green grass, the sound of the crack (or nowadays, thanks to aluminum) the �ping� of the bat, the slap of the fast ball as it hits the leather of a catcher�s mitt.

It�s baseball season.

Spring training has ended. The boys of summer, the professional baseball players of the American and National leagues, officially launched their 2005 season this week.

Opening day was last Saturday. This is supposed to be a joyful time. Part of Major League Baseball�s appeal is its ability to shake us out of the winter doldrums, to draw us to a neatly groomed park filled with like-minded people who love the sport, the fellowship, and most of all, the athleticism of its finest players.

Something doesn�t quite feel right, however.

It�s troubling to hear Jose Canseco, the 1988 AL MVP, admit to using performance-enhancing drugs.

It�s troubling that his recently released and now best-selling book accuses several stars of steroid use.

It�s troubling that Mark McGwire, ex-Cub Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, Rafael Palmeiro and the White Sox�s Frank Thomas were subpoenaed to testify before the House Government Reform Committee last month as it launched an investigation into Major League baseball�s weak steroid testing policies.

To sum up the results of the hearings so far, Canseco is sticking with his story. He claims that he and other players have used steroids.

Schilling, who is not linked to steroid use, said that he never saw steroids being used in the clubhouse and that he was willing to advocate a policy to ensure that all players were on an equal playing field.

Palmeiro said that he had never taken steroids and that he would tell children that his career was a model one that he was proud of.

And McGwire � the guy who in 1998 broke Roger Maris� record of 61 homers in a single season � will neither confirm nor deny steroid use.

You don�t have to be an expert in athletic training or sports medicine to begin to grow a bit suspicious. Especially when television cameras were constantly focused on McGwire, Canseco, and Palmeiro last month, their shirt collars straining to stay buttoned around necks the size of tree trunks as they testified.

Micky Mantle didn�t share such a grotesque physical stature. In their prime, neither did Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, George Brett, Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Harmon Killebrew ? or any other contemporary professional baseball player.

And Barry Bonds ? well, there�s another story. His head has grown so big in recent years (both literally and figuratively) that television cameras would need wide angle lenses to properly focus on him. He was excused from testifying because it was felt he would be too much of a �distraction.�

It�s time to step back and put things in perspective. From 1914 to 1935, the length of Babe Ruth�s career, he hit 714 homers. In 1927, he hit a record 60 home runs in a single season.

Ruth�s season home run record stood for nearly three decades. In 1961, Roger Maris broke the record by hitting 61 pitches over the fence.

Ruth�s all-time home run record remained intact for four decades. In 1974, Hank Aaron broke the record with home run #715.

Let�s look at what�s happened in recent years. McGwire broke Maris� record in 1998 by hitting 70 homers. Three years later, Bonds surpassed McGwire, hitting 73 home runs.

Bonds has beaten Maris� 61-homer record once. The retired McGwire surpassed it twice and Sammy Sosa has bettered it three times.

Players may deny they use steroids, but numbers don�t lie. Drug-abusing athletes are unfairly excelling, and like a tsunami, they are wiping away the records set by men like Maris whose accomplishments can be credited to hard work, natural talent, and most of all, a love of the game.

It�s becoming apparent that Maris, a child of the Great Plains (he was an American Legion baseball standout in Fargo, ND) has been posthumously robbed of his record.

It�s time for baseball commissioner Bud Selig to reinstate Maris� record of 61 home runs in 1961.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias, who refuses to watch any televised baseball games this season. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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