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Friday, November 18, 2021

amped up
With all the hoopla about cracking down on steroids in baseball, Gary Shelton nails it when he notes that such focus on a “fasionable outrage” only deflects attention from a more serious Major League drug problem: The rampant and institutionalized use of amphetamines.

Two years ago, Gwynn suggested that as many as 50 percent of position players used amphetamines to get ready for games. Chad Curtis, the former Yankees outfielder, says the number is 85 percent. Caminiti said there were only one or two players per team who didn’t take them, who “played naked.”

Day games after night games. West Coast games after East Coast games. Stadium lights after hangovers. There are a lot of reasons players say they “bean up” before games for that three-hour burst of energy and focus. Some of them, the stories go, would rather play without pants.

“Guys feel like steroids are cheating and greenies aren’t,” Gwynn told the New York Times.

And there’s part of the problem. Even as steroid usage became rampant, the abusers knew enough to hide it. Rules or not, they knew they were cheating the game.

Even though amphetamines are illegal without a prescription, the situation is different. Players have openly joked about them for years. Back in 1969, Jim Bouton filled Ball Four with one-liners about greenies kicking in. Tug McGraw and Bill Lee wrote about them. Dwight Gooden and Wells, too. Rose admitted taking them. A court case showed the ‘79 Pirates used them heavily.

Amphetamines are often described as “baseball’s dirty secret,” but really, they haven’t been secret at all. They’ve merely been tolerated. There has been a general indifference as to their use, as if amphetamines are somewhere between taking two Advil and having a strong cup of coffee.

The NFL tests for amphetamines, as do the NBA and the NHL and the Olympics. Baseball never has. In baseball, it often has been a bigger disgrace for a player not to take amphetamines than to take them, and sometimes, it seems the key statistic might not be a batting average but a dosage. Turns out, this might be real Green Monster in the game.

It’s comical to try to divine distinctions between one illegal substance and another based on effect. Amps and steroids juice you up in different ways, but they still provide an “artificial” boost.

But then, the culture of athletic optimization is such that the line inches upward all the time. Hypercaffeinated energy drinks, and even coffees, are part of the crest of this wave. At some point, the classifications will be such that you’ll be able to buy the equivalent of “greenies” at a 7-11 (if you can’t already).

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/18/2005 06:17:31 PM
Category: Baseball, Society | Permalink |

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