Pud Galvin: The Godfather of Juicing

Joe HalversonCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2011

To most fans, the idea of steroids being a problem in baseball (commonly referred to as “juicing”) is a recent problem that begins right around the time Jose Canseco joined the Major Leagues. 

In truth, however, steroids were already widespread in baseball well before Canseco; former MLB pitcher Tom House (who famously caught Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in the Braves bullpen) admitted to using steroids throughout his career and claimed that  "six or seven" pitchers on every major league staff in the 1970s were "fiddling" with steroids or HGH. 

This corresponds well with the Mitchell Report, which stated that the government first determined that steroids were widespread in baseball as early as 1973

However, neither of these things can tell us when exactly juicing became a problem, or when it started.  In truth, juicing is nearly as old as MLB itself.

And on that note, meet Pud Galvin, MLB’s first known juicer.

In MLB circles, Pud Galvin is best known as the player who held most of Cy Young’s records before Cy Young decided to pitch forever.  When he retired, he held the MLB records for Wins, Starts, Complete Games, and Innings Pitched, among others.

He also holds a number of notable single-season records, including complete games and innings pitched. 

Many statisticians regard the Hall of Famer’s numbers to be as untouchable as Cy Young’s, only without the fanfare of having a major award named after him.

Galvin, however, is also known for being the first Major Leaguer ever to publicly admit using performance-enhancing drugs.

During the 1889 season, Galvin openly used the Brown-Séquard elixir, an injectable substance derived from testosterone from animal testicles.  It wasn’t the same as an anabolic steroid (which had not been invented yet), but is considered a steroid precursor.

And here’s the thing:  Galvin was actually praised by the media for doing so, with the Washington Post hailing Galvin’s work as proof in the value of using the elixir (which tells you how different the times were in the 1880s).

It cannot be determined if Pud Galvin used the elixir (or other PEDs) before 1889, or if other players did so before him, or even if these PEDs actually enhanced his performance (Galvin was a demonstrably better pitcher in 1888). 

But it is certain that Galvin took the elixir in 1889, and he did so in order to play baseball at a higher level than he otherwise would have done.  And this is the very definition of juicing.

Hopefully, MLB Hall of Fame voters will take this into account when they cast their future votes. 

After all, if a known juicer (who holds several untouchable MLB numbers) is already in the Hall of Fame, and likely isn’t the only one, there’s not a lot of reason to keep the best of the current generation out.