Team Chemistry: The History of Drugs and Alcohol in Major League Baseball by Nathan Michael Corzine (2016)
Team Chemistry: The History of Drugs and Alcohol in Major League Baseball
by Nathan Michael Corzine
University of Illinois Press, 2016
Steroids and performance enhancing drugs have cast a black cloud over baseball for the past couple of decades, but the sport’s chemical controversy has much deeper roots. Author Nathan Michael Corzine travels all the way back to the nineteenth century to show how interconnected baseball was with tobacco and still is with alcohol. He journeys through the twentieth century with tranquilizers, amphetamines, cocaine, and finally the most recent steroid scandal. The handling and mishandling of these abuses is on trial, showing how baseball’s administration failed time and again to confront the illicit activities of the clubhouses and weight rooms.
“Nothing threatens the sacred covenant between baseball past and present in the way that drugs, especially performance-enhancing drugs, do,” Corzine writes. “(PED users’) transgressions struck at the very soul of the ‘Last Pure Place’; they waged war on the numbers, the holy scriptures of the church of baseball, the sacred links tying each passing baseball generation to the next.” This is really what is at stake for baseball purists: those who played in the so-called good old days where not indulging in substances that would enhance their performance on the field. More often than not, those substances—tobacco, alcohol, and cocaine—would hinder their abilities.
There may be some debate over the effect of amphetamines, but there is little doubt that the effect is negligent when compared to the modern performance enhancers. But, as Corzine opines, “It was really just a small step, a logical step, from greenies and tranquilizers to Winstrol and HGH.” No matter how small or logical the step, it was wrong. Baseball failed America, and fans buried their heads in the sand for too long. The steroid problem is far from over, despite what Bud Selig and Rob Manfred may claim.
Corzine’s book is a good, balanced look at the history of chemical abuses in the sport, examining the problems that bedeviled Mickey Mantle, Don Newcombe, Bill Tuttle, Tony Gwynn, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, and other figurative and literal giants of the game.
The use of performance enhancing drugs has thus far kept Mark McGwire out of the Hall of Fame. The general consensus is that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will also lose major support and probably miss the train to Cooperstown.
Now we have Alex Rodriguez, perhaps the biggest star of them all, the golden boy of all baseball writers. And baseball writers are the one who vote on the Hall of Fame. Will the steroids scandal hurt A-Rod?
Personally, I always thought he used. He was a teammate of Jose Canseco – and that alone puts one under the eye of suspicion. However, without the proof, he had my support (but not vote, since I don’t vote) for the Hall of Fame. The numbers are too big to ignore.
Now? He’s off my faux ballot. As well as Keith Hernandez’s imaginary ballot.
How about you?
For all the craziness that has been baseball over the past few years, Canseco has yet to be proven wrong. He has been teammates with some of the biggest names and alleged steroid users in the game…McGwire, Palmeiro, Clemens. All of whom are now wondering whether Cooperstown will actually call. Jose was also a teammate of A-Rod, who, according to Jose, asked where one could get steroids.
Did Canseco indeed introduce one of the (supposedly) greatest natural talents of our time to a dealer? I believe he did. Did Alex follow-through with a purchase and a push of the needle? That remains to be seen.
For those who are coming to Rodriguez’s defense, be cautious. Don’t let your heart be too broken when and if Canseco’s claims are shown to be accurate. By the same token, Canseco’s backers should be aware that the book needed a big name like A-Rod in order to move it off the shelves. If it was filled with names of benchwarmers, no one would care.