The dark cloud hanging over Major League Baseball for the past 25 years finally burst Thursday with the release of the much-anticipated Mitchell Report, a document produced following a 20-month investigation by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell on drug abuse in America's Pastime.
The announcement of the findings in the 409-page report didn't come as a surprise to many including former Major Leaguers in Utah. Rather it confirmed suspicions of alleged rampant steroid and human growth hormone use by some of the game's most prominent players of the last quarter century, including seven MVPs and 31 All-Stars.
"Those who have illegally used these substances range from players whose Major League careers were brief to potential members of the Baseball Hall of Fame," the report says.
Some 85 players were mentioned in the report, including seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, home run king Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Miguel Tejada, Andy Pettitte, Eric Gagne, as well as Mo Vaughn, Wally Joyner, Gary Mathews Jr. and the late Ken Caminiti.
"The illegal use of performance-enhancing substances poses a serious threat to the integrity of the game. Widespread use by players of such substances unfairly disadvantages the honest athletes who refuse to use them and raises questions about the validity of baseball records," the report says.
The game has overcome the Black Sox Scandal of 1919 in which some players were accused of throwing the World Series, a cocaine scandal, and several labor disputes, and now time will only tell how baseball will deal with its latest blow.
"It's been one thing after another, and then there is this, and this has to be the darkest moment in baseball that I can remember," said St. George native and former Boston Red Sox first-round pick Bruce Hurst in an interview.
"It's been an ugly period in baseball. I've been really disappointed in the game the last several years. It's always had a big cloud hanging over it. I hope we can put this behind us and clean up the game and get the game where it needs to be."
Hurst was particularly blindsided when Clemens' name surfaced. The two played in Boston together for several seasons, where they grew close.
"I think the world of Roger. He's one of my better friends in the game and the greatest teammate I ever had," Hurst said. "I don't want to believe it. When it comes to that, I'm going to listen to Roger and wait to see what he has to say."
The Deseret Morning News placed telephone calls seeking comment Thursday afternoon to three current Major League players with Utah ties John Buck (Kansas City Royals), Brandon Lyon (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Brad Thompson (St. Louis Cardinals) but the calls were not immediately returned.
Joyner's bout with steroids came to light in a 2005 article by ESPN The Magazine in which it stated Joyner was briefly tempted by steroids toward the end of his career. The ESPN report says Joyner was concerned that he wasn't keeping up skill-wise with other Major Leaguers his same age.
Caminiti supplied Joyner with steroids, the report claimed, but Joyner only took a few pills in a two-week period and then threw the rest away when he regretted taking any of the pills.
When contacted Thursday evening, Joyner, who lives in Mapleton, wouldn't comment on his specific issues but did offer this statement.
"All I can really say is I'm happy with the George Mitchell Report, and I hope it will improve the situation with Major League Baseball and get it back to game we all know and love," he said.
Mitchell placed blame for the "Steroid Era" which Hurst and retired Utah Major Leaguers Dale Murphy, Vance Law and Cory Snyder all saw in its early stages in the 1990s on more than just the players.
"Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades commissioners, club officials, the players' association and players share to some extent the responsibility for the Steroids Era," Mitchell said. "There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on."
Snyder, who played nine seasons in the major leagues before retiring in 1995, agreed.
"This is an issue that should not have been pushed under the rug until it has blown up like this," he said. "This is something they should have put their foot down on a long time ago."
Two-time National League MVP Murphy and Law, who both retired in the early 1990s, remember having suspicions of several players using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Neither thought the problem would ever get this big.
"Steroids were something associated with big, mammoth guys in football and pro wrestling and with speed with track athletes," Law said. "I never thought that baseball would fall into this."
Said Murphy: "We didn't have a very good foresight into this thing and didn't grasp how big a problem it would become."
With everything now out in the open, Murphy said it is time Major League Baseball does something to address the problem, and a good start would be following the Mitchell Report's recommendations of increasing its ability to investigate allegations, have a more comprehensive program of education for players and, with the cooperation of the owners and Players' Association, develop a more state-of-the-art program for testing.
"It paints a picture of what we all were afraid of what the game looked like from the inside," Murphy said. "It's disappointing to have to go through it. It's too bad. I thought he (Mitchell) did a great job of exposing the problem."There is no way of getting around it. This is not a good day for baseball, but we've got a problem. As (Commissioner) Bud Selig said, this could be a call to action to really make some headway and make some progress."
Contributing: Jacob Hancock, Jim Rayburn, Deseret Morning News; and Associated Press