The Mitchell Report has baseball reeling. Talk about your worst-case scenario. Not only does it turn out just about everyone was doing 'roids, it also turns out Jose Canseco was right.
The national pastime hasn't been this embarrassed since Roseanne sang the national anthem.
But I know one person who is smiling.
That would be my brother.
For him, there is a silver lining in baseball's cloud of shame.Roger Maris has been resurrected.
We were 12 years old, my twin brother Dee and I, when Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961. I'd spent that summer rooting against both Maris and his teammate, Mickey Mantle, who might have hit 61 himself if injury hadn't stopped him at 54.
I pulled hard against Maris and Mantle for two good reasons: (1) They played for the hated New York Yankees, and (2) Dee was pulling hard for them.
Especially Maris. For some reason, he acquired quite the fixation for the crew-cut wearing right-fielder. (But it wasn't the hair; he also acquired a fixation for Willie Nelson, the country singer, and he wears a ponytail.)
When Maris, chain-smoking and his hair falling out because of the stress, broke Babe Ruth's 34-year-old record of 60 home runs in the 1961 season's final game, Dee assumed a regular propriety right to the record. It was as if he owned it, too.
Weird, I know, but that's how it was, and for decades after that he would follow the progress of, and place the occasional hex on, home-run hitters who took flings at 61.
Several times, someone would get hot in the spring and pull ahead of Maris' 1961 pace, or they would rally in the fall and have a mathematical shot.
This would throw my brother, clutching his calculator, into a deep, unstable funk.
But through the '60s, '70s, '80s and into the '90s, no one climbed the mountain. Few came close. Until 1996, only three players Willie Mays with 52 in 1965, George Foster with 52 in 1977 and Cecil Fielder with 51 in 1990 hit more than 50 home runs in a season.
Then came the fateful summer of 1998, when creatine-swilling Mark McGwire and heaven-saluting Sammy Sosa belted 70 and 66 home runs, respectively. That was followed three years later by Barry Bonds' 73-homer season.
They didn't just kick sand in the late Roger Maris' face he died at the age of 51 in 1985 from cancer they did it in August.
And that was that no more worrying about when the record would fall.
But then along came the rumors that steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs had taken over the game in the 1990s allegations that gained considerable more credibility when former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell released the findings of his steroid probe this past week.
Sure enough, my phone rang the next morning. It was my brother.
"How," he wanted to know, "do you spell vindication?"
"Not only did Roger Maris do it clean," he gloated, "he did it while he was chain-smoking Camels. He used counter-steroids. He was putting the wrong stuff in."Yankee fans.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.