In his book “Baseball in the Garden of Eden,” historian John Thorn explains how gambling was far from an “impediment to the game’s flowering;” instead, it was “the vital fertilizer.”
It wasn’t long before gamblers were drawn to America’s newest phenomenon. Ballparks resembled the floor of the stock exchange during games. Dollars were exchanging hands in the crowd as bets were placed on everything imaginable.
You remember Casey At The Bat, right? The classic poem about our national past time? Do you remember this stanza about the gambling going on in the crowd?
“A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.
The rest clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that —
We’d put up even money now with Casey at the bat.”
“Mighty Casey struck out.”
“Take me out to the ball game”
“Say it ain’t so, Joe.”
Oh, right. It wasn’t long before the dark side of gambling reared it’s ugly head. Baseball’s first, and maybe it’s greatest scandal involved the Chicago White Sox. A 1919 team who will be remembered forever as the “Black Sox,” after multiple players accepted cash bribes to purposely lose the World Series.
“Say it ain’t so, Joe.”
The quote has probably been bastardized, or at the very least, made more movie friendly. But we can all relate, right? After all, baseball is a child’s game.
Think back to your childhood. Could you imagine your favorite player throwing a World Series game? How many pieces would your heart be broken into?
What if you found out one of the pitchers on your favorite team was throwing spitballs? Probably not the best analogy, right? But, I mean, both scenarios presented above are technically examples of cheating.
Cheating, gambling. Same thing, really.
The pitcher is gambling that the umpire won’t see the sandpaper in his glove or the pine tar on his neck. The hitter is gambling no one will notice his bat is full of cork. The aging player is gambling that the league won’t detect performance enhancing agents in his urine.
Since baseball’s inception, players have been trying to find an edge.
Instructing the groundskeeper to harden the area in front of home plate, (Baltimore chop) hiding balls in tall outfield grass, sharpening spikes, doctoring balls, blinding opposing players with mirrors.. The list goes on.
Are we consistent?
Where do we draw the line?
I’ll tell you one thing. Wherever the line has been drawn, the Astros are on the bad side of it.
Houston illegally stole signs electronically during the regular season and playoffs. They installed a monitor which displayed the center field camera feed outside their dugout. They banged on trash cans to alert the hitter at the plate which pitch was coming.
There’s no way you will ever convince me that this is “part of the game.” And to be fair, no one is really trying to make that argument.
There are writers, however, who are killing the Astros, but also planning on voting Barry Bonds into the Hall of Fame.
Sorry. How can you think that what Houston did was egregious, yet have no problem with Barry Bonds pumping himself full of drugs to the point he became the Incredible Hulk?
The man went up multiple shoe and hat sizes in his late 30s!
As mad as you are about the Astros, that’s how I felt about Barry Bonds’ inevitable march towards the home run record. The disgust you feel listening to the Astros scandal unfold is how I felt watching Roger Clemens lie in court.
I felt sick to my stomach watching Hank Aaron congratulate Barry Bonds on eclipsing his 755.
I guess, what I’m saying, is that I’m trying to enjoy what’s left of this game. Our commissioner, Rob Manfred, is actively trying to destroy this beautiful sport. I’m already watching games with juiced balls, the last thing I want to see is cheaters from generations past resurrected.
Call me crazy, but I’d like to forget these players. Not immortalize them.
It’s not fair. Believe me, I know that.
The 2017 World Champions cheated. The man with the most hits is not in the Hall of Fame. The man with the most home runs is not in the Hall of Fame. One of the best pitchers in history isn’t in the Hall of Fame. One of the best shortstops in history isn’t in the Hall of Fame.
Or cheat. Same thing.