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DECEMBER 20, 2007

"It's terribly disappointing to have faith in someone as a role model and have them turn out to be tainted."
-Gladys Roost, 80, Dodger fan 

"It is a damn shame that these guys can't depend on their talent to see them through."
-Shirley Murphy, 33, Orioles Fan

"Making that kind of money, they ought to set a better example."
-Ralph Bass, 63, Texas Rangers Fan

If you read these comments and thought that they were talking about steroid use by professional ball players, you’d be mistaken. They were actually about baseball players who had been caught using cocaine, and are over half a decade old.

Different drugs make different headlines in society for different reasons, and baseball has had it’s share of drug-related headlines.

One of the most interesting things I stumbled upon in the Mitchell Report was the incidences of cocaine use by professional baseball players. At some point in Major League Baseball’s history, they decided that they would spend 20 million dollars to get rid of the steroid problem, but not the cocaine problem.

Well, I suppose they were kind of interested in the cocaine problem at some point during the 80’s, but they didn’t spend this kind of money to get rid of it, or even to investigate it.

And I seem to recall a player called (affectionately) Bill “Spaceman” Lee. Lee pitched for the Red Sox and the Expos in '60s to the '80s when he told reporters he smoked marijuana (and then appeared on the cover of “High Times” magazine.

And although many people have probably forgotten him mostly, there was an (in)famous Yankee by the name of Joe Pepitone who was known more for his drug use than his baseball playing; his Rick-Jamesish exploits with cocaine are known by virtually every Yankees fan within 100 miles of their home field. I’m not even going to get into Daryl Strawberry, who struggled with a cocaine habit that probably bought Pablo Escobar several houses…

Remember the pitcher named Dock Ellis? One day he decided to drop some acid on a day he had mistakenly thought he wasn’t scheduled to pitch.  In his autobiography he wrote:

"I had taken LSD ... I thought it was an off day. That's how come I had it in me. I took the LSD at 12 noon. At one, my girlfriend looked in the paper and said 'Dock, you're pitching today'."

If you know the rest of this story, you know that he had 8 walks that night; but also managed to throw a no-hitter.

Do I even need to mention that “greenies” (amphetamine pills) were used in professional baseball since as far back as the 60’s and are still being used today? Greenies are the stuff that made effects long nights out drinking disappear the next morning for guys like Dock Ellis (and Joe Pepitone, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, etc…).

Our generation (I’m still in my 20’s) didn’t invent drug use, and our professional athletes are no more or less enamored with them than previous generations…or than society as a whole. It just seems that this time around, performance enhancing drugs are the media darling of the week, and we’ve forgotten about (most) other drugs in professional sports.

Too bad steroids can’t kill you but those other drugs can.

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