Wednesday Comp. II
9 October 2012
Hall of Shame
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa may very well have saved Major League Baseball. The season after the MLB strike of 1994, attendance and TV ratings were the lowest they had been in over a decade. Baseball needed a way to boost interest and increase the games appeal and more importantly to the league, revenue. And it received that boost in the form of the greatest home run race the game has seen. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were pacing their way to history in pursuit of breaking Roger Maris’ single season home run record of 61 home runs that had stood for 37 years. After the 162 game season, McGwire and Sosa finished with 70 and 66 home runs, respectively, and had made a positive impact on the game of baseball. However, it is unlikely that the two men will ever have a place in Cooperstown, New York in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame because they played in the steroid era (late 1980’s to the late 2000’s) and their admitted steroid use.
Major League Baseball players who have used or been accused of using steroids should be considered for Hall of Fame induction. It is often speculated that players who use steroids are more likely to hit more home runs per season. Arthur De Vany proves in his article “Steroids And Home Runs.” from Economic Inquiry, that in the past 40 years, there hasn’t been a significant increase in the number of home runs hit by major league players (490). People argue that because more home runs are being hit per season, and that records are falling with short tenure, that there is a direct correlation to steroid use with out considering other variables. The baseball season has been extended quite a few times. In 1919, Babe Ruth broke a 36 year old record of 27 home runs with 29. This seems to be a remarkable feat, until one considers that Ned Williamson’s (The previous record holder) record came in a season of 112 games, where as Ruth’s was achieved in a 140 game season. Ruth then broke his record the next two years with 54 and 59 home runs. In these seasons, the coefficient of restitution of the baseball was increased, which increased the amount of rebound and velocity of the ball coming off of the bat, and the seasons were yet again extended to 154 games. With no more changes in equipment or schedule length, Ruth only ever hit one more home run than his previous career high, reaching 60 home runs, 3 years later in 1927 (De Vany 490).
Roger Maris surpassed Babe Ruth as the single season home run king 34 years after Babe’s 60 home run affair. Maris belted 61 home runs, just eclipsing Ruth’s previous record. Maris had help though. By 1961, the season had been extended to 162 games. Jump ahead 37 years to the McGwire/Sosa race, and there are a new set of variables to consider. McGwire and Sosa both played in the National League at the time, which means that they played in almost all of the same stadiums. Fields are considerably shorter than they were in the days of Ruth and Maris, and as stated in Zack Hample’s book The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stitches, game balls are significantly more refined and lively than they had been in the age of Ruth or Maris (129). After McGwire and Sosa shattered the record set by Maris, it took 3 years, the exact same amount of time it took for Ruth to break his own record, for Barry Bonds to eclipse the record with 73 home runs in a single season, giving two examples from different periods of baseball history that not all records stand for several decades.
If indeed there were evidence to support there are now more home runs per player per at bat, one must also consider that the pool of talent is much broader and diverse than it was in the early days of professional baseball. It’s worth noting that in the Ruth era, almost all players were white Americans with very few exceptions of European immigrants, where as in 2001...