News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

January 15, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: For now, justice is served in Bball Hall

TERRE HAUTE — News this past week brought justice of a sort. The folks who decide these things have declined to pick anyone to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame this year.

It’s a shame in a way. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa seem to be eminently qualified for honors as stellar athletes in the first year of their eligibility. Still, a question remains. Would they, could they, have achieved such heights without an assist from “performance enhancing” drugs? Or, put another way, do the records they set as players belong to them as individuals or to the pharmaceutical industry?

Bonds and Clemens and Sosa are not the only players who broke the rules about drugging, nor are they the first to be barred from Cooperstown because they broke the rules.

We can go all the way back to “Shoeless Joe” Jackson of the Chicago White Sox who, according to the record books, was part of a group now called the “Black Sox” who threw the World Series. Or, if baseball’s ancient history isn’t your thing, there is the more recent case of Pete Rose who, allegedly, bet on the outcome of games. He insists he never bet when his team, the Cincinnati Reds, was involved, but gambling was frowned upon and Bart Giamatti, then commissioner of Major League Baseball, banned Rose from consideration from the Hall of Fame.

The difference between Pete Rose and the current crop of eligible inductees seems to me to involve a difference between actual illegal doping and a rule set by professional baseball, probably to avoid another incident like the “Black Sox” scandal.

In both cases, the records of the players stand. Pete Rose set records still unbroken and did it without resorting to surreptitious shots in the locker room. Bonds and Clemens and Sosa have their names in the record books, too, but their achievements remain suspect.

Maybe we will never know if they are as good as their statistics seem to indicate.

Some writers have suggested that Bonds and Clemens and Sosa need only to bide their time. When memory of the drugging scandal begins to fade, then will be the time to vote them into the Cooperstown elite.

Maybe, but I think Pete Rose should go first. He set his records without drug enhancement.

I have a long memory. I’ve only read about remembering the Alamo and remembering the Maine, but I do remember Pearl Harbor. If Pete Rose remains on the outside, the trio who had to testify before Congress (and fibbed!) should not be allowed in either.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star education reporter. Her column has appeared weekly on this page for more than 20 years. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.

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