The Biogenesis scandal has ravaged Major League Baseball's image with suspensions of notable players like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez for their connections to performance-enhancing drug use. What remaining hope for baseball fans lives on in the apparent innocence of a select few who challenged the record books but have never been implicated in using steroids or other PEDs.
According to the Baseball Almanac, MLB ballplayers hit an average of 383 home runs per year from 1900 to 1920. In 1921, 937 balls left the yard, an increase of 144 percent. The 1950 season featured over 2,000 home runs for the first time, 1962 broke the 3,000-homer barrier and MLB shot past 4,000 homers in a season in 1987. By 2000, that number had ballooned to an all-time high of 5,693.
No doubt the sport changed drastically over the course of 80-plus years, but the late 1990s and early 2000s saw relative nobodies turn into superstars seemingly overnight. Players not only continued careers into their 40s, but they were also improving.
Human bodies are not supposed to age like wine.
The story of the sport has always been the story of two eras, the dead-ball era (until 1919) and the live-ball era (1920-present), but baseball's cheaters created an era of their very own: the steroid era.
ESPN sums it up well: "While just three players reached the 50-home run mark in any season between 1961 and 1994, many sluggers would start to surpass that number in the mid-90s." Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa led the home run parade with 50-plus home runs four times each from 1996 to 2001.
By the time investigators released 2007's Mitchell Report, illegal substances had invaded the game so deeply that it was nearly impossible to separate the clean from the dirty.
Looking in the rear-view mirror puts it all in perspective. The fact that Hank Aaron never hit 50 home runs in a season is sobering enough.
However, it's a mistake to brand every player from this era a cheater. It would be unfair to deny innocent athletes a deserving spot in baseball's Hall of Fame merely for bad timing. Instead, those who found a way to stay clean through it all deserve our respect.
I comprised the following list of 10 players based on their career numbers as well as their absence from any PED reports. They also need to have played a significant number of games from the early 1990s to the early 2000s and must have retired before the start of the 2011 season. Please note a 75 percent vote is required for player induction into the Hall of Fame.