Alex Rodriguez became the 7th member of the 600-homerun club without much fanfare. (Photo by Jeff Lewis)
Ken Griffey Jr. is the only player over the past 39 years to reach the 600-homerun club without being linked to steroids. (Photo by Jeff Lewis)
By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
Over Major League Baseball's first 102 years there were only three players to join the 600-homerun club. That would be Babe Ruth in 1931, Willie Mays in 1969, and Henry "Hank" Aaron in 1971.
Steroids has made that group much larger. Since 2001 there have been four players added to the club. Barry Bonds in 2002, Sammy Sosa in 2007, Ken Griffey, Jr. in 2008, and Alex Rodriguez a week ago. Out of those four players the only one not associated with steroids is Griffey. Bonds and Sosa have been strongly linked to the performance enhancing drug, and Rodriguez admitted to using steroids from 2001 to 2003.
The steroid era was exciting. After the 1994 strike, which canceled the World Series that year, baseball needed a shot in the arm to become relevant again. The saying, "chicks did the long ball," was never truer at that time. Mark McGwire and Sosa captured the nation's attention with their magical chase of Roger Maris' single season homerun record in 1998. Their back and forth battle led them right by Maris and it was surreal to watch McGwire reach 70 homeruns.
Three years later Bonds went on a tear and broke McGwire's record by hitting 73 homeruns, and then ran down Aaron's career homerun record of 755.
Stadiums were packed as several players throughout the league were hitting over 50 homeruns per season.
But that time in baseball turned out to be a farce, and the record books, which baseball fans hold dearly to their hearts, are now being assaulted.
The 600-homerun club, which for years was one of the most exclusive and prominent clubs in any sport, is becoming as phony as Bonds flaxseed oil excuse.
Taking out the steroid users, the 600-homerun club would be Ruth, Mays, Aaron, and Griffey, who are four of the greatest players ever.
It is interesting to note that Major League Baseball has always been majority white, but three out of the four steroid free players in the 600-homerun club, Mays, Aaron, and Griffey, are African American, and there have been many rumors that Ruth had black linage.
Ruth being black is not a new theory, or one brought up by people who were not around to see him play. Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, who was known to be a racist, refused to share a Georgia hunting lodge with Ruth. Cobb was reported to have said, "I've never bedded down with a n----- and I'm not going to start now."
As for the steroid users in the 600-homerun club, only Bonds seems like he is worthy of the Hall of Fame. It is believed that Bonds did not start taking steroids until 1998. At that point he was already a Hall of Fame player.
Sosa was nothing before steroids, and he was nothing afterwards. His entire career is based on steroids. Rodriguez may not be on steroids anymore, but knowing that he was using during the prime of his career will sway voters away from him.
McGwire did not last long enough to make it to the 600-homerun club, but with over 500 homeruns he will be on the ballot. But do not count on him getting in either. His career was finished before he started taking the drugs, and he was not a Hall of Fame caliber player at that time. He did not have enough homeruns early in his career to get in because of numerous injuries.
But McGwire all of a sudden was able to get healthy in 1996, with the aid of steroids, and he went on a homerun tear that gave him enough to be considered. Take way the steroids and he would not have gotten close to being a Hall of Fame player.
As for Griffey, he has never been linked to the drugs, and seeing that he was unable to stay healthy late in his career shows that he was not a user. He was truly a great player and if he would have been able to stay healthy he may have made a run at Aaron's all time career record, and he would have done it clean.
Look for Griffey to get into the Hall of Fame the first year that he is eligible.