The Forgotten Players: The Untold Story Of Performance Enhancing Drugs In Baseball

I once heard an interview where a player gave his estimation of how many players were on some sort of performance enhancing drug when he played in the early 2000s. He said it was ninety percent of the players—in other words, nine out of ten guys.

Let that marinate for a second.

I don’t remember who the player was, but I certainly believe that stat to be fairly accurate. It always made me wonder why PED or steroid usage causes such an uproar if it was as common as using tobacco before a ball game. A player could get arrested for being caught with some of the drugs they were using, but there were no written rule in baseball which stated a player couldn’t use them.

For that simple fact, baseball should just build a wing in the Hall of Fame and label it the “Steroid Era.” Baseball should not run away from it’s past, but accept it, and be proud that they took steps to try and right the wrongs.

I know some people will disagree. They want these men banned because the cheated! They want their names removed from the record books! They don’t deserve it!

These same people that proclaim these things are rule breakers themselves. They are law breakers. Not only do they break laws, but their law breaking could have a bigger impact on their lives and the lives of others than the men that used PEDs during baseball.

How many of you commute to work everyday? How many of you drive in and stay at, or below the speed limit? I’m going to go out on a limb and say not many. It’s a rule of the road and a law that is easy for us to ignore. We ignore it for a variety of reasons. Some people can’t afford to be late, and fear of losing their jobs. Others just like driving fast. Regardless of the reason we break the law; the law is there for the safety of ourselves and the other people on the road. We do it because the odds of us getting caught are slim.

However, when we speed on the road and take our lives and the other people’s lives for granted around us, it’s not looked on as harshly as a man that took MLBs sacred records for granted. Not unless we get caught, and not unless something bad happens. Then the speeding person’s name is often on the cover of your local newspaper and looked on as a villain.

The same holds true when it came to PEDs, which brings me to the next point.

Why is it that we ridicule the player who was a superstar, when suspicions of PED usage arise, but the fringe major league player and middle of the road players get a free pass?

Nobody gives a rat’s ass about how PED use of these fringe players affected the game of baseball, all that is cared about is the sacred records. What a crock of crap. Has it ever dawned on anyone that these great players were already great, and while the may have used PEDs, would probably have been hall of famers to begin with?

The truly forgotten player in this mess is the player that never lived out his dream. The clean player that tried to stay on the straight and narrow and never even thought to use a PED to gain an edge. These men were robbed of their dreams, often good enough on god given talent to play professional baseball, but often overlooked because scouts marveled at the guy who was juicing.

I’ve had a few friends who played minor league and independent league baseball who would attest to seeing the other players rubbing the “cream” on in the club house. I, with my own eyes, have seen friends helping inject each other with a syringe of steroids.

It was literally everywhere.

How many young lives were ruined because young men were trying to imitate their heroes? How many young lives lost? How many dreams crushed?

I never for a second thought my heroes were ever using steroids. Not that it would have made a difference in what I was doing if I knew that they were. Call me naïve, but I really thought it was Creatine and other over the counter supplements these players were using. If you didn’t find me in a gym lifting weights, I was probably at GNC re-stocking my supplement stash.

I was a player dead-smack in the middle of the steroid era. I was a victim of the steroid era. My story is probably not much different than others. I’m sure thousands of former aspiring baseball players can tell you similar stories. As an aspiring player, I began using Creatine in an attempt to build huge bulging muscles to catch the eyes of the scouts. The result: between my sophomore and junior year in college I gained almost 20 pounds.

A funny thing happens when you gain 20 pounds in a course of two months when you aren’t using performance enhancers—you get slow as heck. I went from a guy who had the green light on the base paths the two previous years with the nickname of “Jackie” (after Jackie Robinson for my aggressive base running style and the way I wore my uniform), to a guy that should have been utilized as a designated hitter. I went from scoring from second base on passed balls to the back stop, to having someone come in to pinch run for me in certain game situations. I wasn’t fat, just didn’t realize what gaining the extra muscle weight was doing to me and my game.

It’s the year 2001. I am one year removed from college and skipped over in the major league draft, knocking around to different tryouts. I had gotten a full-time job at a prominent company right out of college, but I still had the itch to play professional baseball. I remember getting myself in the best shape of my life (naturally) and decided that a tryout I was going to attend for the Cincinnati Reds would be my last hurrah. Unless I got signed, I was walking away from the game. I would leave it all on the field. It was time to move on with my life.

I won’t bore you with the details of the tryout, but I was invited with two other young aspiring ball players to stay after the tryout. We were pulled into the dugout when everyone else had vacated the field. The Reds scout walked over to us, he began to speak, and I will never forget what he said. He looked at us and said “you three guys are good enough to play in the Cincinnati Reds organization right now. The problem is I can’t sign any of you, although I would like to, because then we would have to release an established player that we have already invested time and money in. However, I can have you placed on an independent team, and if a spot opens up in our organization or a player gets injured, we can give you a call.”

I heard all I had to hear. I was happy I heard the words that I was good enough to play in the organization. I walked up to the scout, shook his hand, and thanked him for the opportunity. I walked off the field for what I thought was going to be the last time in my life. I had closure. At least I thought I did.

Fast forward a few years to all the steroid allegations. All these men I looked up to growing up are now being accused of using steroids. I’m hearing that ninety percent of ball players were on some sort of steroid or PED. The closure I thought I had slowly started drifting away. The closure began to turn to anger. I started to question if the reason why I didn’t get a chance to live my dream was because some other guy that was cheating was holding me back. I started to wonder if I had decided to put that needle to my ass cheek, would things have been different. I started to hate the game.

So while some people out there are angry that the star players used these PEDs to pad their stats, those stats can be fixed with an asterisk. The fringe player gets a free pass in all of this, but why? How can we fix the broken dreams? How can we help the grieving mother or father who lost their son because he was using PEDs?

While everyone worries about the sacred records, and argues about players that should not be in the hall of fame, try to remember that there was more at stake. PED usage affected more than just the record books.

About Mitch Petanick 248 Articles
Don't be afraid to swing at that first pitch, it may be the best pitch you see the entire at-bat. PhD in ⚾. Twitter: @firstpitchmitch. I also manage MMO's Instagram account: @metsmerized_online -- be sure to give it a follow!