Will steroids alter baseball records, too?
Accusations of drug use cast suspicion on current and former stars. Increasingly, fans want players proven to have used steroids removed from the record books.
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After that year, the legendary 60 home run mark, reached only twice in a century, was accomplished four more times, culminating in Bonds's record 73, set in 2001. Until then, Bonds had never hit 50.Skip to next paragraph
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But if such startling statistical promiscuity is an affront to the cherished integrity of baseball, many of those calling for these records to be wiped off the books are more concerned with the larger social impact of steroids.
"It is essential that we look at the collective sum of our actions today as they impact our youth," says John Eliot, a professor of performance psychology at Rice University in Houston. "With 10- and 14-year-old kids sticking needles in [themselves], and jeopardizing their well-being and longevity, we need to treat this issue with utmost urgency. In no uncertain terms we need to make statements that drug use is not only an unacceptable means to achievement, but it is a medical danger."
For this reason, Mr. Eliot believes not only should players who use steroid have their records taken away, but they should also face criminal charges.
The problem with erasing records, many point out, is the impossibility of determining every player who may have used steroids. Baseball has only recently begun a policy of testing - years after the glut of 60-home-run seasons - and only after the BALCO investigation brought pressure on the league.
"If records were stricken, there would be a problem in that records set by suspected but not proven steroid users would still stand, and I do think that only a few cases will be proven or confessed," says Paul Schoofs, an economics professor at Ripon College in Wisconsin. "I think that if it is proven that a baseball player knowingly used steroids or any other illegal performance-enhancing drugs, that player should be banned from future Hall of Fame selections."
Others have even suggested bringing back the infamous asterisk, which the commissioner of baseball, Ford Frick, attached to Roger Maris's home-run record, since he played in a season that had nine more games than Babe Ruth had. Most now consider "the asterisk" a pretentious attempt to preserve the integrity of baseball, and that it detracted from a genuinely historic accomplishment. But should new records by players proven to be enhanced by steroids or other similar substances now receive an asterisk?
"If [players] did do it, obviously, they should be reprimanded in a way and if you want to put the asterisk next to their name, I think that's fine," says David Wells, a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. "But at the time they weren't testing for that."
Though most observers think baseball will never again attach an asterisk to a record, they point out that many of these players have already damaged their reputations irreparably.
"It doesn't matter if we catch all the bad guys," says Eliot. "It matters that we hold ourselves - for our children to see - to a higher standard of health, performance, and pursuit of excellence."