The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Baseball is back, better than ever

When I was just a nine-year-old boy, I breathlessly checked the newspaper every morning. It was the summer of 1998, and Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were chasing Roger Maris’s single-season home run record. The question wasn’t whether they would break it. The question was: Will it be today?

Both would go on to pass Maris’s 61, McGwire with 70, Sosa with 66. That summer of ’98 maintains a mythic pull on my imagination. Of all my childhood memories, none stands out like seeing those two sluggers do what didn’t seem possible.

This summer, I watched Alex Rodriguez hit his much-anticipated 600th home run. This time, I felt no excitement. In the past 12 years, McGwire and Sosa had been tainted, dragging with them my childhood faith in the game. So had many other baseball greats.

McGwire admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, and Sosa reportedly was doping too. Rodriguez, Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez are among the other admitted or suspected steroids users.

Just last week, Roger Clemens, whom I once thought of as one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, was indicted for lying to Congress about his steroid use.

So in the summer of 2010, I checked the paper every morning to see if Rodriguez had done it. Only this time, I turned to the sports section hoping nothing had happened.

Every home run Rodriguez hit was an insult to the men who’d hit 600 honestly. More than that, it was an insult to the nine-year-old who once took so much joy in the game.

When so many of your boyhood heroes turn out to be cheats and liars, it’s easy to stop believing in miracles.

But something else happened this summer. I found my faith in the game restored. Nothing major happened, but little by little I was reminded why I once believed that baseball is more than just a game.

I watched as first-base umpire Jim Joyce denied Armando Galarraga a perfect game by blowing a call with two outs in the ninth inning. Like many of Galarraga’s Tiger teammates, I cursed Joyce and wondered who could make such a bone-headed call. But when Joyce sought him out to apologize, Galarraga gave him a hug and said, “Everybody’s human.”

I cheered for Derek Jeter when he appeared in his 11th career All-Star Game. Jeter’s athletic abilities are tremendous, but it’s his unsullied reputation as a team leader and human being that makes him one of history’s greatest athletes. Starting next to him on that All-Star field was Evan Longoria, who promises to take up Jeter’s mantle as baseball’s all-around star.

I went and saw my hometown team, the Tampa Bay Rays, challenge the Yankees’ dominance in the American League East. With only a fraction of the payroll, the Rays have remained within one game of the sport’s most star-studded franchise.

I banged on the seat in front of me when David Price took a hitter to an 0-2 count. I jeered the umpire when he ruled what looked like a home run foul. I joined in an impromptu chant of “Yankees suck.” I ate two foot-long hot dogs in one game. I sat with my friends in full Rays gear, bonded by our mutual love for our team.

Every new revelation that a one-time star was taking steroids makes me sad. But I’ve stopped being cynical and angry. The dopers betrayed us, but we also betrayed them. We expected them to be supermen when, as Galarraga said, “Everybody’s human.” Now their disgrace only makes the achievements of clean players like Jeter and Longoria look even more remarkable.

Baseball once made me believe that anything can happen. Then, it made me doubt whether anyone is honest. Now, as I think of Galarraga and Joyce, Jeter and Longoria, and as I watch my Rays battle for the pennant, I know the game is back, better than ever. The best thing about baseball is that you’re never too old to be a kid again.


Nathaniel French is a senior theater major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].


More to Discover