Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Gobstopper that got away

Another icon. Another broken promise.

And folks, it’s only going to get worse.

Ryan Braun has proven, like many other professional athletes, untrue to his word. And what’s even worse is that we all expected it to end this way.

Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun

I’m not sure what makes me more angry, the fact that we let this guy off the first time when we all knew he had tested positive but gotten off on a technicality; or that we’re letting him off now with just a 65-game suspension. Try doing any of the shenanigans that Braun just pulled in your current work place and it will shortly be your former work place.

But such is not the case for professional athletes.

In case you’re not up to speed on what Braun did, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

He failed a drug test at the end of the 2011 season.

He appealed the test, claiming that the person executing the test had failed to follow procedure.

And when he won his appeal in 2012, he exclaimed in an statement televised by ESPN that “If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I’d be the first one to step up and say I did it. I would bet my life this substance never entered my body.”

Two short sentences. 32 little words. None of them true.

Braun negotiated his punishment so that his long-term contract will remain in tact for the more than $100 million the Brewers still owe him. He’ll lose a whopping $3.8 million this year, mere pocket change compared to his total payout.

So what’s to be done to stop these sorts of violations from continuing to come forth? Well, short of making all PEDs legal, I have a few suggestions…

1. All Sports need to be under one testing body, both nationally and internationally.

Let’s get everyone on the same page and get the best tests we can. There will always be more money put into the cheating side than the discovery side, but there is strength in numbers.

And this means that every sports team opens every contract with a statement to the effect of, “If you get caught using PEDs in any way, shape or form, your contract is null and void.”

Yes, its just that simple.

2. Period of Amnesty

Starting immediately, players in baseball have a two-week period where they can admit they’ve been using PEDs and have no consequences regarding their ability to play, save two. They must get clean before they can play again and they must be tested every game for the next two years and randomly after that. They miss the window on confession, then they wear a target on their back.

Just like a PC that has gone bad, Major League Baseball has hit its ‘blue screen of death.’ It’s time to wipe the slate clean and reinstall the system they way it should have been all along, including appropriate updates.

3. No more excuses

Willy Wonka

Willy Wonka

One of the most offensive things that Braun said in his recent statement after his suspension was that he “… had made mistakes in the past.” No Ryan, a mistake is something you do by accident. You lied. You cheated. You stole fizzy lifting drinks and so you should get NOTHING! But since you aren’t about to confess to what you really did and give back baseball’s equivalent of the Ever-Lasting Gobstopper (aka your salary or the tainted MVP you “won”), then you should be kicked to the curb with the Veruca Salts and Mike TVs of the world.

But no. In this twisted version of the children’s classic, Willy Wonka let’s Charlie keep and sell the Gobstopper to ol’ Slugworth and still get the factory. Oompa Loompa brain matter would be everywhere as they collectively sang “WTF?”

And that leads me to my next point…

3. No more second chances

These guys know the rules. And if they don’t, and obviously some pro athletes don’t (eg Donovan McNabb) they should be tested on them until they do. I’d think the ones that could cost you your job would be chief among the ones that just might catch your attention.

But in Braun’s case, he knew.

And when Alex Rodriguez gets nailed in the not-to-distant future, he knew.

Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson … they all knew.

Hell, even Pete Rose knew he was breaking rules when he bet on baseball.

So when they break a rule, they know exactly what they are doing. If not, why weren’t Braun and A-Rod doing commercials for the Biogenesis Clinic? Why weren’t they on TV, radio and the web urging folks to “come on down” and a buy some for the kids?

Why? Because they knew. They knew it was wrong and they knew they’d get nailed if anyone ever found out.

A lifetime ban is what they deserve. A ban from playing, coaching, administering, attendance or even keeping score on a piece of notebook paper in their own freakin’ home is what they deserve!

~

Baseball has long since been removed as our national past time, being replaced by the NFL. It’s faster, quicker and sadly even more reliable. Roger Goodell may seem like a power hungry maniac, but that’s only because the NFL had gotten very close to going the way of baseball.

Baseball has no one in its front offices any longer that has a spine. Certainly no one as staunch as Judge Kenesaw “Mountain” Landis during the days of the Black Sox Scandal. No, new leadership is desperately needed. Leadership that actually cares about the game and not the bottom line. One that knows that America’s “grand ol’ game” could be that again if someone is willing to take a stand and weather the storm that lies ahead.

Better get your umbrellas out folks, it going to be a bumpy night.

My day with Jack Rothrock

There are people who affect your life, and they always seems to come when you least expect it.

He was born John Huston Rothrock, but everyone knew him as Jack.

Jack Rothrock

Jack Rothrock

It was that man that I met is a dusty San Bernardino trailer park one afternoon in the Fall of 1976. And how I came to be his friend is an odd tale.

I was a ‘seasoned’ ball player of four years by that summer, having just completed my last season in the Ridgecrest Little League’s AAA division. My team had won the league championship at 17-1, lost to Dave Wooten’s China Lake squad in one of the best ball games I ever played in for the city title and had sputtered with the all-star team in our opening tournament in Bishop.

And as the prospect of another summer hanging out at the house loomed large on the horizon, I was busy doing whatever I could to pass the time.

Part of that was, well, watching, eating and sleeping baseball.

One day my mother brought home our groceries and I noticed there was a contest on the side of the Jersey Maid milk cartons. There were a variety of one-paneled baseball trivia questions, nine if I remember correctly, that had to be answered correctly in order to be entered into a drawing for some world series tickets. So my mom and I started the arduous task of researching the information. This of course in a time when the word ‘Internet’ hadn’t yet been invented (by Al Gore, or anyone else for that matter). So off to the library we went.

We checked out whatever the limit was on books and headed home. I remember getting my first glance at a copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia then, and man was that sucker heavy!

When we got home we spread out in the living room, determined to hunt down every last answer. I was scouring statistics (I guess you guys know where I got started now with my fascination for them) and my mom dove into some book on a team called the “Gas House Gang”. I really wasn’t paying attention to her as I searched for records pages and info that might lead me to an answer. But when I finally did poke my head out long enough to look at her, she was crying.

“Mom, what’s wrong?” I asked.

She sniffed a few times, collected herself and said, “I know him”

“Who? A guy in that book?”

1934 World Series Champ Ring_2“Yes,” she said, turning the opened book toward me. “I knew him when I was a kid in Long Beach.”

I started reading over the pages around Jack’s picture, ending in complete disbelief.

“Mom! You don’t know anybody with a World Series ring,” I exclaimed! “C’mon! It must be a different guy! Are you kidding me?!”

She told me the story of how she had run away from home for a few weeks and had lived with Jack and his wife, Ardith. When things settled down and she went home, they had stayed in some touch, but not a lot.

We finally got back to the task of searching for my baseball trivia, finding all of the answers but with my never winning any tickets.

But that instance set off a personal manhunt for my mother that came to fruition a few months later.

Of all the places this guy could have been living, he and Ardith were in a trailer park just two hours from our home in Ridgecrest. I heard my mom talk with Ardith and Jack on the phone and make plans for us to drive down to see them.

All three of us had great interest in making this journey. My mom to reacquaint herself with dear friends, myself to meet a Major League Baseball player and my dad to meet a man who played for his childhood heroes. He had been born and raised in St. Louis in the 20s and 30s, and the loss of his father at age eight had seen him turn to baseball as a way to fill the void.

When we arrived there were many hugs and handshakes exchanged, including Jack giving me a brief grip and grin. My parents and the Rothrocks went and sat at the kitchen table to play catch up while I sat in front of the television, likely watching some cartoon or baseball game.

After about an hour or so Jack limped out from the kitchen, favoring the hip he had had replaced. He looked down at me and smiled.

“Your mom says you like baseball,” he said as he smiled. “That true?”

“Yeah,” was all I could muster.

He flipped his head over his right shoulder, motioning toward the hall, and said, “Follow me.”

We took a few steps down the hall of his trailer to the first bedroom on the right, where he stopped and opened the door. Before he could turn on the light the smell of dirt, infield dirt, burst from the room. It was stale air to be sure, but there was no mistake that it smelled like age, like history, like baseball.

Jack flicked on the lights and stepped inside to stacks of old boxes and mementos. I could see all kinds of pictures and books and the occasional glove. But it wasn’t until he pointed at the team photo of the 1934 World Champion Cardinals did I notice it – Jack’s World Series ring on his right hand. It wasn’t very shiny, but it was the one thing that a select club of Major League Baseball players had, and here was one of them.

In that moment Jack could have told me the moon was made of cheese and I would have believed him, no questions asked. That one small ring legitimized everything he’d say over the next hour or so as we talked baseball and looked at the images that covered his career. And everything he ever told me was true, down to the last detail.

Jack Rothrock

Jack Rothrock

We left that day and made several trips back to visit with he and Ardith over the next few years. Until one day in February 1980 when Ardith called to give us the news that Jack had passed away. I felt my heart sink a little that day as I felt like I lost a personal mentor.

Jack and I never really talked about the skills or strategy of baseball. No, what we shared was much more than that.

He rekindled my love for the game.

And even though I am a little more detached from the day-to-day stats and personalities of the game, I still love it. I love the drama, the history and the personalities that arise from it. I love the memories of a simpler time when I all I really wanted was to just feel the bat strike the ball and watch it sail into the outfield.

During one of our final visits to Jack he said he was going to change his last will and testament to give me his ring. Unfortunately, he passed before that could happen. When he died his kids came, took all his stuff and sold it off. Somewhere out there Jack’s ring sits, hopefully a beloved piece of someone’s collection.

The only remnant of Jack that I have is a picture that Ardith autographed for me posthumously. It’s a nice reminder of the man who taught me a genuine love for the game that has been part of my life since I was eight.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is great joy for Allen, for Jack he did seek out!

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