After what has to be a Peabody award-winning interview by Texas’ own Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes and CBS News fame, the rouse Alex Rodriguez has pulled the wool over the cataractic eyes of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Yankees faithful (because Rangers Country always knew he smelled of whatever he was shooting between his toes) may be the biggest scandal ever in baseball history.
Although there have been many more kerfuffles in the Great Game than this baseball aficionado cares to admit, this version of The Hit List has them narrowed down to seven of the worst scandals to tarnish America’s pasttime. Why, seven? Because the number still seems sacrosanct and I like to believe this majestic game hasn’t been bruised any more than some ne’er-do-well halfwits have made it.
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BTW, “scandal” is some clandestine affair that rocked the game to its core. Marge “Should-Be” Schott’s Nazi leanings, John Rocker playing Bigot Boy or Al Campanis’ racist diatribe weren’t scandalous — just ludicrous in every way. Brett’s “pine tar”, Belle’s and Sosa’s corked bats, and even Maris’ asterisk weren’t scandalous — just ridiculous, in their own way.
Oh, and don’t scroll down, but the No. 1 worst baseball scandal may surprise you. And, away we go.
7. Owners’ Collusion (1985). Despite whatever the crap Barry “My-Head-is-Swolled-Bigger-Than-a-Kardashian’s-Behind” Bonds thinks, this really was collusion by the owners. And definitely, a scandal. In fact, thanks to some legal savvy (and a truckload of cash), three different cases ruled in favor of the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) for a settlement of $280 million. Essentially, the ruling said the owners all filed in line with an unwritten agreement that stuck it to the free agents in 1985-1987, all because the commish Peter Ueberroth told them to do so. No competition. No courting players. No high pay raises. Just baseball from the ’80s — the 1880s, and that didn’t sit well with the 1980s ball players who wanted to buy their kids Christmas presents bathed in gold and unicorn tears. They got their money and baseball has been a fool’s paradise ever since.
6. Pittsburgh Drug Trials (1985). Ah, yes. Dig those ’80s. It seems this was a good decade — the owners wanted to keep all their money and the players (specifically the Pirates of the Allegheny) wanted to
sniff spend it all. In what would be one of the largest baseball scandals, and one of the most exhaustive drug trials in baseball history, 13 Pirates were called to testify about what seemed to be a drug cartel operating out of the clubhouse. Regarded players, such as Tim Raines (Sr.), Keith Hernandez, Vida Blue, Dave Parker and Lee Mazzilli, were subpoenaed and asked to give their accounts on the muling of this nose candy. Even the damn mascot was called — yes, Parrot! The fallout? There were 11 players suspended, seven drug dealers arrested, and three studs were damned for good. Any thought as to why Hernandez, Parker and Raines have not been invited to Cooperstown? Just sayin’.
5. The Strike of 1994. It was August, and for 232 long days after, there was no baseball — more than 900 games cancelled because of avarice and childishness. There wasn’t even a World Series for the first time in 90 years. That’s a scandal onto itself. You had juvenile brats arguing with crusty curmudgeons over money that poor people looking for a day at a game give them. It was the common man’s money going to uncommon boys, and we were stuck having to deal with it. Fortunately, when baseball took the padlocks off the stadiums, the fans didn’t care. They were done. And until 1998, they meant it. (In fact, Expos fans never came back.) Baseball games sunk in attendance by nearly 20 percent for three straight years. However, amazing how chicks dig the long ball. Even the fellas couldn’t keep away from Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa dueling it out to beat Roger Maris. (Oh yea, we’ll get to that.)
4. Ty Cobb and the Night Watchman (1912). When baseball was segregated, it was a travesty. Regretfully, people hadn’t removed their head from their um, dugout to realize how integration was how baseball was supposed to be and why Jackie Robinson deserved to be a hero (along with Branch Rickey, Dodgers’ owner). While racial hatred is criminal, mindless and shortsighted, it’s not scandalous. What happens as a result of said bigotry is. Enter Ty Cobb, arguably one of the best baseball players in the history of the game, who was allowed certain indiscretions because of his undeniable talent. The man set 90 MLB records during his career and still holds the record for the highest career AVG at .360. (!!!) So, when Cobb traipsed into the stands to open a can of whoop ass on unbeknownst heckler Claude Lueker, MLB let it slide. Oh yeah, Lueker had no hands. (Scandal enough?) Anywho, perhaps his most scurrilous action was being the biggest racist to don a baseball uniform (and arguably, another white, pointy one, too). So, the Georgia Peach is in an elevator, looks at the guy pushing the buttons, and pimp slaps him for being “uppity.” The elevator operator was black. His friend, the hotel’s night watchman (also black) tried to break up the fracas and Ty Cobb stabs the guy. Sure, he was brought up on charges but you think it went to court? Nope. Was nary a word brought up after that? Nope. Think Ty Cobb stabbed the guy for being not Ty Cobb’s color? Yup.
3. Pete Rose’s Gambling on the Game (1989). The number is an astonishing 4,256. That’s the number of hits Pete Rose has leading everyone ever in baseball for the most hits in a career. He has another number that’s a tad more bewildering — 20,000. That’s the number of dollars Pete Rose was approximately betting on games in which he both played and managed. Daily. And for that scandal, Pete Rose became the most dubious name (next to some guy named Joe, whom we will read of next) to another distinction in baseball lore belongs — banned from baseball for life. Why so harsh? His hobby affected games, records and numbers, above all are hallowed in this game. The 225-page Dowd Report contained damning evidence against “Charlie Hustle” that he definitely did that in Vegas on a startling amount. Despite all the efforts to get the ban lifted, Pete Rose’s accomplishments are in the Hall of Fame. The man still owns 17 MLB records and seven other NL records. Cooperstown can’t kill the prestige, the spirit and the amazing talent Pete Rose possessed to make him one of the game’s greats. The only thing MLB can ban — and has banned — from its bellyaching hall (thanks to you, BBWAA) is his bust. And with a face like that? Meh.
2. The Chicago Black Sox (1919). This will forever be one of the baseball’s darkest clouds and its shadow is boundless. The Chicago White Sox were the favorites to win the title in 1919, but there was a gambling tycoon named Arnold Rothstein who wanted more than that — he wanted his rival team (he was a Yankees guy) to lose in the most phenomenal way possible, so he could earn a killing. To wit, he paid eight guys who nicknames alone earn infamy status because they intentionally controlled the World Series and lost the game. These men were: Happy, Eddie, Chick, Swede, Buck, Lefty and, most notably, Shoeless Joe Jackson. This one act forced baseball to the one thing it never considered before — hire one person as its commissioner. Although two years later, all eight men were tried and acquitted of all charges, said new commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis chose to ban these men from baseball permanently. From that ruling, he offered these historical words:
Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.
If only baseball commissioners relished the fanfare and the admiration for the Great Game now as they did then, we wouldn’t have to do this…
1. Bud Selig’s Glaucoma. I was having a sports debate with a buddy of mine when a skosh of heat rose under my well-pressed collar. Obviously, when baseball elected its first commissioner in 1920, it knew that the process wouldn’t be a perfect one. The first, as we discussed, was a judge, one was a former employee of the U.S. Department of War and U.S. Senator, and one was a sterling baseball reporter (for whom a certain Texas Rangers’ great just earned Frick’s award). Kuhn to Ueberroth, Giamatti to Vincent, they have all had their share of drama in the grand poobah’s office; however, none have operated in as much malaise for the game, ineptitude for the office and motivation for profits as Bud Selig.
During the 1994 strike, Bud was begging Donald Fehr for another whoopin’. He prayed to Baseball Jesus for help and it came with two guys swapping homers (and needles) for Roger Maris’ single-season home run record. Attendance skyrocketed, profits increased, ratings blew up and then Bud knew — a blind eye was the answer. Sure, he knew Mark McGwire’s neck expanded to the size of Rhode Island. Sure, Sosa could hit … but like that?! And then the fans came back. Then came Barry Bonds who will infuriate purists into perpetuity because he never needed the cream and the clear. After numbers inflated as bad as the federal budget, it took the U.S. Congress to haul Selig’s behind to court and do something about America’s game.
From Sosa forgetting how to speak English and McGwire not wanting to talk about the past to Clemens’ “misremembering” to Palmiero’s finger wagging, there was Bud turning a blind eye. The Mitchell Report told the world what we already knew — steroids are real. And to prove it, we discover the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO). Where was Bud? Wondering if revisionist history could be a thing while devising a plan to combat steroids. You know? About 30 years too late. And now, BioGenesis. The media, U.S. Congress and even the fans have tried to save baseball and where was Bud? Counting his cash. Hell, the guy was an owner of a team. He cares about profit. That should have been your first clue, people.
The Baseball Writers Association of America is an absolute sham. The Hall of Fame needs an entire asterisk wing since Buddy Boy won’t protect the numbers earned properly. He’s making journalists hurl mud on the horse roids. And all the while, there’s Bud picking his eye boogers telling people he can’t see a thing. His chase for sporting supremacy is the biggest scandal in MLB history because he has permitted the most prevailing stain this sport has ever known. And the fans are still paying for that job to Bud’s optometrist. Had it not been for Congress — the same group of misfits with a nine percent approval rating — taking Bud to Lens Crafters, there still wouldn’t be any rules in place to deal with HGH, PEDs and chimpanzee genetics, or whatever animal they are using this week. If that’s not a scandal, I don’t know what this sport is anymore. And fortunately, I do.