Is Baseball's Steroids Scandal Overhyped?

Bert Randolph Sugar is a writer sports historian who has written over 50 books, mostly about baseball and boxing.  He was the owner and editor of of Boxing Illustrated magazine from 1969 until 1973, and the editor and publisher of The Ring magazine from 1979 to 1983. In 1998, he founded the magazine Bert Sugar's Fight Game. He has appeared as a commentator on HBO, ESPN and in numerous movies about boxing as himself. His most recent book, "Bert Sugar's Baseball Hall of Fame: A Living History of America's Greatest Game," was published in 2009.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What inspired you to write a book about the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Bert Sugar: I have followed baseball all my life, or cognate life and it really is a fun sport.  And to me, the Baseball Hall of Fame is the greatest hall of fame there is, period, end of paragraph. 

So, I wanted to write about it and wanted to do a book, an oversized coffee table book, stealing a line from one of the “Seinfeld” episodes.  It even comes with four legs in case you need a coffee table.  It’s a big book.  Big pictorial history, I’m writing the history and I’m taking the reader on a virtual tour through the Hall of Fame.  And I’m proud of the fact that I got a blurb on the back from Yogi Berra, which reads, “What Bert Sugar doesn’t know about baseball, nobody knows.”  I have no idea what that means.  I think it’s Zen-like, like it’s not worth knowing.  But Yogi makes sense.  I'm a Yogism, but I once asked Yogi, I said: “Yogs, what did you mean when you said, when you come to a fork in the road, take it.”  He said, “That’s easy, I live at the end of a circle.  Whether you go left or right, you come to my driveway.”  And I went, “He’s making sense.”  And if you parse, analyze, Yogi’s sayings, he does makes sense. 

He’s credited with, “It’s too crowded, nobody goes there anymore.”  Well, there’s a story to that.  The Yankees, after a night game, would go out to dinner.  They’d be at the stadium early to either go through the lineup of the opposing team, or get treated for some ailment, or wrap their knees, if it was Mickey Mantle, or whatever.  And after the game they’d all go out to dinner.  And there was this one restaurant in Cleveland that always was open and always had a place for them after a game.  And they all went there.  Well, it became known that the Yankees eat here.  You know, advertising, or word-of-mouth.  And they went one time, and there was no place at the inn for them.  So they didn’t go there anymore.  Ergo, “It’s too crowded, nobody goes there anymore,” meaning “us.”  Yogi makes sense.

Question:
How badly has the steroids scandal hurt Major League Baseball?

Bert Sugar: I don’t think – I really don’t think steroids are as big a problem as the press has made them.  And if they are, we’ve got a pitcher on steroids throwing to a batter on steroids who’s hitting to a fielder on steroids.  You’re looking for one-upmanship.  Tony Gwynn will tell you, years ago the Padres used to have a bowl of amphetamines in their clubhouse.  Like M&M’s, you’d just pop them.  It didn’t help the Padres at all.  You’re not talented, it ain’t gonna help nothing.  If you’re talented, it might give you a little edge, but so will a spitball.  Baseball has always dealt in edges.  And the Phillies used to raise their third base foul line, extra lime, so that Richie Ashburn’s bunts would stay there.  The Cleveland Indians used to grow the grass higher at third base so Al Rosen, the third baseman wouldn’t break his nose or his fingers on every ground ball.  It would slow it down.  In the 1962 playoffs between the Dodgers and the Giants—by that time, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants—they watered the base paths so Maury Wills couldn’t get off to a fast start and steal bases.  That’s legal, steroids aren’t.  You know, all right.  I don’t get that excited about it.  I’m sorry.  You know, and I’m so old that when I heard the word “drugs” the first time, I thought they were talking about aspirin.

Recorded May 4, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen


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