An Asterisk on MLB Record Books Was Wrong Then, and It's Still Wrong Now

Jonathan Williams@@jonathanbwCorrespondent IFebruary 19, 2009

If anyone watched the movie 61*, you know that baseball decided for years to mark Roger Maris' passing of Ruth with an asterisk. The commissioner's reasons were that Maris played more games than Ruth, thus it was not an equal record.

It was a huge mistake. One that, in my opinion, smeared baseball, because Maris was not a poster boy who everyone loved like the more affable Babe.

In the 1990s, we know that the steroid era in baseball was in full swing. How long this era lasted is any ones guess. It is a known fact that steroids were in use in football during the 1970s, so there was availability to star players even then.

We also know that amphetamines had an even longer history of abuse in Major League Baseball. This goes back possibly as far as the Maris era.

Some have suggested that any record by a confirmed steroid or human growth hormone user should be wiped from the record book. This would be similar to what was done in the Olympics, where there was also retroactive punishment.

Others would like to see asterisks by names from this era. Denoting the fact that they had a professional advantage.

But, of what use is the asterisk? What does wiping the names off the books accomplish? 

Barry Bonds still hit 72 home runs and broke Hank Aaron's record using the clear and the cream. Alex Rodriguez has injected himself with some Dominican specials and is likely to break Bond's all-time home run record.

Yet, the obsession over numbers in baseball and perceptions of clean records is a fallacy.  Baseball has a fine tradition of cheating.

Spitballs, corked bats, and medicinal helpers were not inventions of this era. In my mind, this era is little different than others in that respect.

If we want to denote the cause of the large numbers of this era, I have no problem with that. However, let's not kid ourselves, because we do not know whether Ruth's era was cleaner.

I suspect, had steroids been around then, they would have been used, just as uppers of other varieties and other methods were used to gain an edge.

So, no, an asterisk will do nothing to wipe clean the stain of steroids. In the future, using one may end up looking as silly as the one that was placed on Maris.


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