When it returned, the game was hurting. People were upset. I know I was. I had planned to go to Jacobs Field in Cleveland to see my beloved Indians play for my 21st bday. My bday is August 19....8 days after the last game of the 1994 season was played. They weren't going to the ballpark, attendance was down. They weren't watching on TV, the ratings were down. They were migrating to other sports like NBA (something to do with this guy named Michael Jordan returning to basketball after he didn't want to be a replacement player in baseball as he had played in the minors during the 1994 season). The NBA found a way to capitalize on this & i personally believe that's why the league is so popular now.
Baseball had to do something to get people back and I think that's how we wound up with what is now know as the steroid era.
What's better than watching sluggers chase Roger Maris' 37-year-old record for most home runs in a season (61)? Not much...I mean, even Nike built an advertising campaign around Mark McGwire's monstrous booming homers and brought "Chicks Dig the Long Ball" into the baseball vernacular. The home run is sexy and the chase of that record by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa is the highlight of the 1998 season.
“A terrible beauty has been born” and it's known as the Steroid Era.
Baseball benefitted from the drug-induced soaring long balls. Three years after, the chase for 61, Barry Bonds came along and blasted 71 bombs in the 2001 season. Attendance numbers were rising back to pre-strike levels, ratings were coming back. People were excited about the game. My Indians were winning....so I was excited as well (well until my interest waned as I focused on other things and I drifted away from the game from about 2001-2007.)
Then the lies started catching up to MLB and ended up being exposed in 2002. First, recently retired player Ken Caminiti admitted that he had used steroids during his National League MVP-winning 1996 season (he died in 2004 from a heart attack linked to steroid use). Then the BALCO scandal broke taking down Barry Bonds (this is also the same scandal that exposed sprinter Marion Jones). Sammy Sosa failed a drug test & more stories came out from former players saying "hey, I took steroids" or "hey, that guy took steroids" including Jose Canseco's infamous memoir Juiced.
It's just my opinion that commissioner Bud Selig knew about the steroids the whole time, but decided to turn a blind eye because it was a way to get people excited about the game again. He continues to turn a blind eye as recently as last year with the mere slap on the wrists for the players who were busted in the 2013 Bosch steroid scandal. Really?!?! 50 games and if your team made the postseason, you still got to play. Don't even get me started on the whole Alex Rodriguez legal wranglings. I just get beyond furious fired up mad...mostly because of what is in the next paragraph
It wouldn't be the only shady business in Selig's tenure. There have been rumblings for years that he wouldn't award the city of Cincinnati the all-star game because of his supposed personal grudge against Pete Rose & fears that the fans will make it a giant Free Pete Rose protest. (for those not familiar, Pete Rose is serving a lifetime ban from baseball for gambling/betting on baseball. He never bet on his team to lose though. Also, it is rumored that Selig will not review Rose's application for reinstatement because he holds Rose responsible for the death of former commissioner & friend Bart Giamatti who died of a heart attack 8 days after banishing Rose from baseball). Cincinnati will finally get their all-star game next year in 2015....I don't think it is coincidence that it will be the first all-star game following Selig's retirement as commissioner.
A terrible beauty was born in the mid 1990s & I think last year's suspensions were a reminder that it's still alive and well, but I also think the fact that several notable players from the steroid era are coming up short in Hall of Fame votes. Yes, chicks (and other fans) still dig the long ball. I am just grateful that many of the long balls I loved and adored were hit by Jim Thome of the Cleveland Indians. His name has never been linked to BALCO, the Mitchell Report or Bosch. He was just a country strong farm boy from Peoria, IL who once belted a homer 511 feet at Jacobs Field. He hit 612 of them...almost all of them during the steroid era. I'm headed to Cleveland shortly after writing this....one of the first things I will do when I get to the stadium is gaze in awe at the statute that was just unveiled over the weekend to honor one of the "good guys who did it right".
PS. Free Pete Rose....he never cheated on the field like these suckers. Alas, that is another post at another time.