Jeff Seidel Says No Steroid Shortcuts To Hall Of Fame; What About Sandy Koufax?

When we as a society face a great moral crisis, such as whether steroid users belong in baseball's Hall of Fame, it is always fashionable to ask the children what they think. The children, our most precious jewel, are innocents uncorrupted by the vices of cynicism and expedience. Faced with a question of morality, the children will always seek the right path. This is why we must listen to the wisdom of the children.

And that's why Free Press sports write Jeff Seidel asked the children, who were visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, if players like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens belong in the Hall despite their likely steroid use.

Freep: This group of boys has grown up in the post-steroid era, so I asked each one a question: “Should somebody who used steroids be allowed to enter the Hall of Fame?”

“No way,” one said. “You never know his true talent.”

Seidel approves of this tough anti-steroid response from these youngsters: "I just hope they remember one thing from that long drive to New York: There are no shortcuts to get to the Hall of Fame."

It seems a little absurd that using steroids can keep the all-time career home run champ out of the Hall, but using other banned substances like corked bats, pine tar bats, Vaseline and emery boards are no impediment to Cooperstown glory. (Cough) Gaylord Perry (Cough.)

However, baseball is, as Walt Whitman once said, the "American game" so it's appropriate, in the democratic spirit of our nation, that the will of the people is reflected in the criteria for what sort of ball payer merits a bronze plaque in Cooperstown and the immortality that comes with it.

But just as democracy is an American tradition, so is fairness. In baseball, as in life, we should all be seen as equals before the law with no fear or favor.

Look Who Else Is in Jeopardy

If Bonds, Clemens, et al are out of the Hall of Fame for steroid use, then we should also retroactively remove current Hall of Famers that we know used steroids in one form or another.

Sandy Koufax, for instance. 

In 1964, Koufax was discovered to be suffering from traumatic arthritis that left his pitching elbow swollen "as big as his knee."

The physical limitations of his body likely meant Koufax would've had to retire after the 1964 season, expcept for some pretty radical treatment that included cortisone shots every other day.

Suite 101: There are excellent options today for treating arthritic elbows, like arthroscopy and "Tommy John" reconstructive surgery. In the mid-1960s, however, one could only relieve the inflammation with ice and cortisone, plus take codeine-laced analgesics like Empirin for the pain. There was also Butazolidin, a powerful anti-inflammatory drug banned in the 1970s for toxicity.

Koufax used them all.

After pitching, he soaked the elbow in ice water for 30-45 minutes. He received cortisone shots every other day. He took Empirin before bed and even during games. He ate several meals a day so Butazolidin wouldn't shred his stomach.

Following Logic Down a Slippery Slope

Cortisone is a steroid, and though it's a different type than the antibiotic definition we commonly think of when discussing "performance enhancing drugs," it's hard to see how Koufax could have continued as an elite pitcher without it. And if he retired in 1964, his career would have been short back-to-back Cy Young seasons in 1965 and 1966 in which he won a combined 53 games, including a no-hitter and perfect game. 

Does Sandy Koufax make the Hall without his amazing '65 and '66 season? Looking at his stats, it's hard to see how.

Since he couldn't have had those seasons without the help of the cortisone steroid, it's fair to say he wouldn't have made Cooperstown without steroids.

So, I trust Seidel and others opposed to steroid use will join this call to remove Sandy Koufax from the Hall of Fame. Koufax was one of the game's greatest pitchers, a true legend, and a fantastic ambassador for baseball, but if the sanctity of Cooperstown is to be protected from steroid users, then Koufax must go. It's the only fair thing to do.

After all, we can't give special treatment to some steroid users simply because they played in an older more beloved era of baseball than steroid using heroes of my generation.

Read more:  Detroit Free Press
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