Those of you who read my posts know that I’m a baseball fan, and love to read anything to do with the sport. (I have the book, Catcher at home and can’t wait to start it.) With the recent news regarding the suspension of Boston’s erstwhile left fielder, Manny Ramirez, I figured it would be a good time to highlight some of the titles on the history of performance enhancing drugs in baseball.
- Juiced by Jose Canseco.
Okay, so Mr. Canseco won’t be winning a Pulitzer Prize for his writing, anytime soon. And, he most likely had an agenda when he wrote this book. But, you have to give him credit for calling attention to the steroid issue in baseball. He’s been pretty right on with most of the names. (He pointed the finger at Alex Rodriguez in his second book, Vindicated well before Selena Roberts’s story was released. And, I have to give kudos to any celebrity who writes two books without the use of a ghostwriter.
- Juicing the Game by Howard Bryant
Those of you who became acquainted with Bryant through his writings in the Boston Herald or his excellent book, Shut Out, detailing the racial history of the Boston Red Sox, will find another gem, here. Unlike Canseco’s opus, there’s no agenda, here, but rather a very detailed history of what’s been going on in baseball the last several years. Bryant delves into deeper topics, here, such as the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, and the rise of Commissioner, Bud Selig. Bryant also spreads the responsibility of the problem to a variety of areas, including Selig, himself. If you read one book on the topic, this would be a good bet.
- Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams
You can’t have a discussion about steroids in the modern game without mentioning either the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) or Barry Bonds. BALCO was involved in a scandal when it was discovered that they allegedly supplied performance enhancing drugs to athletes such as Bonds and Olympic track star, Marion Jones. San Francisco Chronicle reporters, Fainaru-Wada and Williams, conducted investigative journalism on the company, as well as the man chasing Hank Aaron’s cherished lifetime home run record. Bonds, possibly unfairly, became the poster child for the steroid era and this book does nothing to dissuade the belief that the superstar was juicing, even though he was an exceptional player before the drugs.
- The Mitchell Report
While this may be a little dry compared to the others mentioned in this posting, the Michell Report is an important read on the subject. It’s the summary of the research done by former U.S. Senator, George Mitchell regarding the use of performance drugs in baseball. Mitchell conducted the research at the bequest of Bud Selig and took just a few months shy of two years to finish. Yes, Mitchell relied predominantly on two sources, Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski. And, yes, the fact that Mitchell is involved with the front office of the Boston Red Sox may make it seem weird that no current Red Sox players were on the list. However, this was the report that first pointed the finger at Roger Clemens as a user, taking the spotlight away from Barry Bonds. Clemens, once a shoo in for baseball’s Hall of Fame, has seen his legacy tarnish. Two biographies, in the last few months alone, have been published detailing the dark side of the All Star pitcher. (For my part, I will always associate the release of this with that awful snow storm in December 2006 when it took everyone several hours to drive a few miles. I listed to the coverage on WEEI while I sat in my car without moving). You can also read the report online.
- Ball Four by Jim Bouton
Surprised this is on the list? This season long diary from 1969 by pitcher, Jim Bouton, is more relevant than one would think. In short, it shows that drug use in baseball is not a recent occurrence. Bouton talks about the frequent use of “greenies” (amphetamines) in clubhouses, as well as non-performance enhancers such as marijuana. Although it was greeted with scorn by other major league players and was denounced by the then baseball commissioner, Ball Four is now considered to be among the classics of baseball non-fiction.
posted by Laura