Greatness in baseball is frequently discussed, debated and questioned. Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Roger Clemens, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and others were all great baseball players. How much did steroids aid in their spectacular numbers? That is a question that will be asked for a long time.
It is fair to question the accomplishments of great baseball players during the steroids era. It is equally fair to compare their numbers pre and post their alleged or proven steroids usage. What is not fair is to use a player like Babe Ruth to prove how greatness can be achieved by fair play.
Babe Ruth did not achieve greatness by fair play. Babe Ruth’s so-called “greatness” was achieved by deep rooted racism. If steroids give athlete an edge on the playing field, then Babe Ruth and players of his era got the ultimate edge an athlete could ever be given. No amount of steroids and HGH can give an athlete the edge Babe Ruth got. He benefitted from the ultimate unfair playing field.
It is fair to say there was a Bob Gibson, Satchell Paige, Pedro Martinez and Dwight Gooden of the Babe Ruth era. Great baseball pitchers who because of racism were not allowed to pitch to Babe Ruth. How would Babe Ruth look in the batting box if he had to face a fast ball from whoever the Bob Gibson of his time was? We will never know. What we do know is that, unless you faced the greatest of your time and triumphed, you are not really great. Babe Ruth was not great.
An ESPN analyst once said that the only performance enhancing substance that Babe Ruth needed was beers and pizza. Yes, by the look of it, Babe Ruth did have more than his fair share of beer and pizza but that was not all he needed to be great. He needed playing field where a Barry Bonds, a Ken Griffey Jr. and an Eric Davis of his time was not allowed to be fielding in the outfield while he was at bat. A playing field where an Ozzie Smith, a Derek Jeter or an Alex Rodriquez of Babe Ruth’s time could not be on the field. He needed a field that would be the equivalent of Hingis, Davenport and Sharapova going through their respective careers without ever having to worry about a Venus or Serena Williams.
I think the same way people are questioning Christianity and other Religions today, is the same way we should question history and the so called heroes that have been shoved down our throats. Imagine baseball without Blacks, Hispanics and Asians? Mark McGuire would not need steroids in such a watered down environment and he would probably hit 100 home runs per season.
So why Babe Ruth is even mentioned when greatness is being discussed? He is mentioned because of the same racism that setup the unfair playing field for him to thrive in the first place. After Barry Bonds became the homerun king amidst the steroids allegations, Mike Schmidt, a great home run hitter proved just how Babe Ruth’s mythical greatness is racism and nothing else. Schmidt said despite Barry Bonds having the home run record, Ruth was still the king of homeruns in his book. So despite the fact that Hank Aaron was the homerun king prior to Bonds and despite the fact that Aaron did it without cheating, Schmidt refused to recognize him as the homerun king.
McGuire, Sosa, Bonds, Ramirez and other greats of the steroids era can be called great because they play against players of all ethnicities and they all use some kind of performance enhancing substance.
If the use of steroids put athlete numbers into question then not having to face the best athletes of your time, definitely has to put your numbers into question.