America’s pastime: not always glorious |

America’s pastime: not always glorious

Sports Geek
Jeff Sauer
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Jeff Sauer

Ninety years ago today, Babe Ruth signed a historic, three-year contract with the New York Yankees, making him the highest paid athlete in the world.

Confronted by ownership about his troubling indiscretions off the field, and by his own imperfect admissions, the Sultan of Swat also agreed to sign a behavioral addendum – possibly the first in sports history – prohibiting, among other things, alcohol consumption and late-night carousing.

Pretty heavy stuff for the Roaring ’20s, don’t you think? I have a hard time just saying the word “carousing” with a straight face.

Yet, they were on to something back then. Had Ruth violated his contract, he wouldn’t have played, nor been paid, and the Yankees probably don’t go on to win their first World Series title the following season.

From Dizzy Dean to Dykstra, baseball lore is full of late-night carousers, boozers, cheats, gamblers, skirt-chasers and scandals. Some of it adds intrigue to the sport, and some of it, like the steroid era, forever tainted the game and the fans’ perception of professional baseball players.

And this is what makes the Ryan Braun story so puzzling. Initially banned for 50 games after testing positive for PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs) back in October, Braun’s name has now been cleared after baseball’s independent arbitrator overturned his positive drug test last week.

Something’s not right here. Either Braun was cheating or Major League Baseball has some serious egg on its face, and neither outcome is good news.

I should clarify that Braun allegedly tested positive for a banned testosterone substance and not steroids, but just when the stench from this whole performance-enhancing mess was finally starting to clear the air, we’re back to square one – leery of cheaters and immoral players in America’s game.

I’m inclined to give Braun a pass on this one, although I completely disrespect the players from the steroid era who didn’t come clean when they had the chance.

It’s crazy to think that former players Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds didn’t use steroids. As the saying goes: Nothing is certain except death and taxes … and Bonds and Clemens using steroids.

The evidence against them is as enormous as the size of Barry’s head, yet both have made a mockery of the perjury charges levied against them. Clemens gets a mistrial and Bonds gets an ankle monitor for a few weeks. Why bother?

Had they just told the truth somewhere along the way, most of us would have let bygones be bygones, because we live in a society of forgiveness when people are straight up with us, even if that takes time, as it did for Mark McGwire.

Pete Rose simply waited too long – 15 years – to admit that he bet on his team as a player and as a manager, but he was eventually smart enough to come clean, and hopefully he’ll make it to the Hall of Fame someday. At least he has a shot.

Clemens goes to a retrial in April, trying to beat the perjury charges again – and if he does, he deems himself Hall of Fame-worthy.

He’d have a better chance if he took the Mark McGwire route and confessed.

None of the cheaters are going to make it to Cooperstown unless they collectively take the high road together, and then just maybe …

I’d like to see all of the players implicated or accused of steroid use in the 2007 Mitchell report be allowed a one-time only, blanket amnesty period, to come forward and end this nonsense once and for all. In exchange for the truth, all federal perjury charges should be dropped, former players could live their lives’ with a clear conscience, and we could finally put an end to this madness.

Baseball can continue to move forward, focusing on why some of today’s players are still brainless enough to risk their careers, their health, and the credibility of a game their predecessors nearly destroyed.

Jeff Sauer is a longtime western Colorado resident and former Roaring Fork Valley resident. He can be reached at

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