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An excerpt from Call the Yankees My Daddy: Reflections on Baseball, Race, and Family

Medical experts agree steroid use can make an athlete bigger, stronger, faster, and quicker. Steroids illegally enhance athletic performance by allowing an athlete to work out longer and harder and allowing the body to recover more quickly after a workout.

[Barry] Bonds today is a six-foot-two, 230-pound rock, compared with the sleek 185-pound superstar he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Anyone looking at his before and after pictures suspected something beyond an improved diet and exercise regimen had turned him into a home run-hitting machine. Now he is on the verge of breaking the most revered record in baseball. Many fans are outraged. And one longtime baseball advertiser has run the other way.

MasterCard, after learning of Bonds’s grand jury testimony, which had been leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, abandoned its plans for a major, season-long promotional campaign centered around Bonds’s pursuit of [Babe] Ruth’s mark and [Hank] Aaron’s record. And Aaron himself remarked when asked about contemporary ballplayers using steroids, “Any way you look at it, it’s wrong.”

Wrong, indeed. Bonds, who overcame knee problems and returned to the Giants lineup in September, should have been sitting, not swinging, in2005. He should have been allowed to return to baseball in 2006, at the age of forty-one, and if he is able to hit enough home runs for the Giants or whomever, in whatever numbers of seasons, then let him have the all-time home run record and the scorn he would receive along with it. And should he break the record, there should appear beside his career home run total an asterisk with an explanation that this player used performance-enhancing drugs during his career but claimed to have done so unknowingly. The public could then make up its mind about Bonds and his place in baseball history.

As to whether Bonds should be inducted into the Hall of Fame, I say yes. He is a seven-time National League MVP, including four times with the Giants. But he compiled an impressive resume in his first seven seasons with the Pirates before he joined San Francisco in 1993.

Baseball fans, however, are sharply divided on the appropriateness of allowing any drug cheater into the Hall. In a Quinnipiac University poll, 52 percent of those surveyed say such ballplayers should be banned from the Hall, while 42 percent disagree with such a ban.

In 2002, Bonds hit 73 home runs to break Mark McGwire’s single-season record. No asterisk appears beside Bonds’s total. But one should, with the same explanation I cited earlier to accompany the all-time record he may set.

Similarly, an asterisk should appear beside the single-season home run mark of 70 that McGwire set in 1998. McGwire, we now know, used the anabolic steroid Androstenedione, a drug already banned in the NFL, NCAA, and Olympics, because an Associated Press sportswriter noticed an unusual little brown bottle in McGwire’s clubhouse stall that season, wrote down the multisyllabic name on the bottle, and sought to find out what it was. Baseball has since banned Androstenedione.