Bud Selig Hall of Fame induction shows the hypocircy of baseball


Bud Selig will be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and the men who helped make his sport what it was won’t be. And it is wrong.

One of my favorite baseball movies of all time is Eight Men Out. As fans should know, this 1988 film details the infamous “Black Sox Scandal,” in which eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox took money from gamblers to tank the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The story of the “Black Sox Scandal” is something that lifers and even a lot of casual fans know. But what they might not be familiar with, or at least not think about, is the hypocrisy of the Black Sox story.

For those who aren’t as familiar with the story, the main reason Shoeless Joe Jackson and the boys felt compelled to take the money (assuming all eight did) was because of the Chicago’s evil owner, Charles Comiskey. Comiskey severely underpaid the White Sox players. So while sabotaging what was then the biggest event in American sports is not noble by any means, one can sympathize with the White Sox for being baseball’s best team on the field, but worst treated team off the field.

While all fans should be familiar with the story of the Black Sox, the biggest travesty of all is something that may fly over the heads of casuals and experts alike. That travesty is the fact that while Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver and Lefty Williams were banned from baseball, thus killing their reputations/chances for the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Charles Comiskey, the man most responsible for the injustices that took place, was enshired as part of the class of 1939.

87 years after the atrocities of the Black Sox scandal, we face a different, yet similar situation. Here, Allan Huber Selig, better known as “Bud,” plays the role of the wealthy and powerful man, and Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and more, play the role of the athletes who took the steep fall from grace.

Of course, I am talking about baseball’s steroid problem in the 1990s.

Unlike the Black Sox, baseball players in the 90s broke the rules in order to make themselves better, not worse. It wasn’t a question of who was using performance enhancing suppliments in the late 90s-early 2000s; it was more like who wasn’t using them? Bodies were large. Balls were curshed. Laws were broken. But nonetheless; fans were hooked.

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The story of how seroids became prominant in our national pastime started back in the late 80s with the Oakland A’s. But to me, the steroid era as we think of it began in 1994, when the 90+ year battle between the players and the owners came to a climax, canceling the season and the World Series. The strike turned many fans off of our national pastime and was possibly the worst thing to happen to the game as a whole since 1919. Enter, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Baseball took a few years to get back on its feet, but it did all of that and then some thanks to the homerun. The 1998 season was one of the greatest in the history of the game, as McGwire and Sosa took all the headlines that summer for their historical pursuit of Roger Maris‘ single-season homerun record of 61. Both men would shatter the record, as McGwire ended up with 70 and Sosa 66.

As it turns out, it is possible that both men could have been cheating at this time. In 2010, McGwire came clean to his history of using performance enhancing drugs, and although nothing has been proven about Sosa, it is widley speculated that he was on the juice as well. But the great race wasn’t the only historic thing that happened in 1998.

1998 was also the year that baseball officially named Bud Selig as its ninth commissioner. Selig had previously been overseing the game as its “Executive Council Chairman” since 1992, and before that, was the father of the Milwaukee Brewers. Selig remained the commissioner until his retirement in 2014. His tenure saw some good ideas, such as adding wildcard teams to the postseason, interleague play (until it became a daily occurance) and balance in the NL West, with the Colorodo Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks coming into the league in the 1990s. His tenure also saw some bad ideas, such as deciding that the winner of the All-Star game would receive homefield advantage in the World Series, and baseball in Florida. One of Selig’s better ideas was helping install a stricter drug-testing system in 2005, and that is where our problem lies.

I do not condone steroid use. However, whether people want to admit it or not; the steriod era was an immenesly successful period in the games history. Without McGwire and Sosa, the boom period that the pastime experienced in the late 90s and early 2000s would have never happened. 1998 ushered in a renaissance period for baseball that was primarily created by men who were “cheaters.” Any fan who has common sense knows that Bud Selig did not take the steriod issue seriously enough. If he had, we would have seen a strict drug policy well before 2005, Mark McGwire may never have made himself look like a goofball on Capitol Hill, and the blow to the games image would have been less damaging.

What I am saying may sound like a contradiction, as one could be confused on where I stand with the steroid era. While I do believe that the steriod era did do a lot of good for baseball finacially, I feel that the game would have been better off in the long run had Selig and the powers that be jumped on the issue from the getgo. If the guys who were taking got busted- and it would have been a lot of guys, then the game would have recieved a black eye for a while. But I believe that baseball’s reputation would have been much more secure in the long run had the steriod era been halted before McGwire refused to talk about the past in D.C. In short, Selig’s legacy would shine a lot brighter, at least in my eyes, if he handled the steroid issue more like Kenesaw Mountian Landis handled the Black Sox back in 1919.

For those who don’t know, Landis was baseballs first commissioner, appointed to help Comiskey and the boys figure out what to do about the ongoing gambling investigation. The Black Sox were acquitted by a grand jury, but that did not stop Judge Landis from banning  eight suspects from the game for life. After Landis laid down the law, our pastime got back on it’s feat, and I think the same would have happened in the steroid situation. Baseball has survived wars, corruption, and cocaine. I’m sure that, had their been a little less mashing done from 1999-2005, baseball would have survived that too.

To me, Bud Selig is as culpable as anybody for the steroid epidemic. Yes, McGwire, Bonds, Palmerio, etc. were perputrators. But Selig and Major League Baseball waited way too damn long to do anything about it. Unlike the Black Sox Scandel, the guilty parties did not commit their sins out of spite. But just like the Black Sox Scandel, the guilty are robbed of immortality, while the man who brought it upon himself and the game is praised by the establishment.

In doing my homework to write this article, I read an article written by Rant Sports entitled “Top 5 Accomplishments of Bud Selig as MLB Commishner.” Take a wild guess as to what #1 is. That’s right; “Economic Growth.” Here is what the author had to say about Selig’s role in growing the popularity of the game.

“Selig will forever be remembered for the immense economic growth that MLB reaped during his tenure. Under Selig, the league has grown by more than 600 percent, according to MLB.com, expanding its net worth from $ 1.2 billion to a whopping $ 7.5 billion in a span of 22 years. Selig’s unprecedented ability to maintain labor peace and to create balance between players and owners has ultimately contributed to increased popularity.”

Point proven. Selig gets the credit for the success largley caused by the men who will forever be remembered as “the cheaters.” If this is how baseball remembers Bud Selig, then the cheaters should feel cheated.

The majority of the quote above is true. Baseball did grow economically under Selig’s watch and has maintained a labor peace for the past 22 years. But when you read those stastics about the  growth and financial success, remember who really caused it; the fans who came to see the juicers. Nobody paid money to watch Bud Selig, but millions paid to watch Barry Bonds. Millions paid to watch Roger Clemens. Millions paid to watch Sammy Sosa. Sadly, none of those three guys I mentioned will ever achieve offical immortality. Instead, the man who did little to nothing to control those “juicers” will be immorlatized.

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The 1919 Chicago White Sox were crooks that became crooks due to Charles Comiskey treating them like crap. The boppers of the 1990s were cheaters due to Major League Baseball being either negligent or just not giving a damn about what players put  into their bodies. Both of these instances come almost a century apart, and both are very different, yet the same. Both invole hyporicsy. Both involve baseball brass praising the corporate men while exiling the athletes who played a significant role in making those corporate people satisfied. Both of these cases send one simple message; sins can be overlooked… as long as you are a big shot.