Baseball players do drugs...that's the big story this past week. I read a few of the stories surrounding the investigation and was left wondering, who cares? They haven't been my hereos for quite sometime.
Growing up in Anaheim, I used to go quite frequently to Angel stadium when all the big teams came into town. I looked up to the players as a teen, and would eagerly wait for the stars to arrive for practice to get their autographs. They were my hereos. Until they spoke.
There were a few nice players of course; Nolan Ryan and Cal Ripken, Jr. were all class; as was Kevin Mitchell, which is odd considering his frequent trouble with the law. But for every Ryan or Ripken there were 100 bad apples.
Some of my favorite moments? Frank Thomas (playing at the time for the White Sox's) yelling at a kid for daring to ask him for an autograph (this, sadly, wasn't actually polite compared to some of the other White Sox's...one of the players actually shoved a little kid when he ran up to him with a pen and baseball card!)
Ken Griffey, Jr. (playing at the time for Seattle) I notably remember because he locked himself in the car while Kevin Mitchell (his driver that evening) signed autographs. I remember a little kid tapping on the car, and Griffey looking up at the little fan, then simply looking at the floor of the car and pretended not to notice. Mitchel ended up signing autographs for about 20 minutes, while Griffey stayed in the car just starring at the floor.
I saw Wally Joyner when he was both a Royal and an Angel; his obnoxious behavior changed little with each team. I liked him better as a Royal, however, because he was booed as he went to the bus.
Tommy Lasorda was polite depending on how well the team did that night. He'd always sign autographs and try to be professional, but some nights he was a complete jerk about it. For the most part he was just a grouchy old man. The worse I saw him was at a public signing where he was signing autographs in support of some new food he was endorsing.
Finally, there's Darryl Strawberry; I saw him run from autograph seekers just so he didn't have to deal with them. I stayed late one night after a Dodger game hanging out with a bunch of friends in the parking lot; in retrospect I'm pretty sure he was smoking pot, but I was too young to know what that was then; it was the most relaxed I had ever seen him, and the only time I got his autograph.
Seeing so many bad sports in the game, it became harder and harder to support them; so eventually I just stopped. I still catch the occasional baseball game if the tickets are free or cheap, but it's just not the same anymore. The magics gone when you see them up close.