Crying in Baseball

Jimmy gives Doris the business in “A League of Their Own” (Columbia Pictures)

There is a hilarious scene in the 1992 baseball comedy A League of Their Own where Jimmy Dugan—the washed up, drunk coach of an all female team (played expertly by Tom Hanks, I might add)—screams at a player as she comes off the field in tears.

“Are you crying? Are you crying? There’s no crying. Oh, you zip it, Doris. There’s no crying in baseball!”

Check it out HERE. And while you’re at it, take a look at THIS other side-splitting scene where Jimmy finally handles Doris’ brat son. It’s even funny out of context for those of you who haven’t seen the film… if you’re out there.

The first time I heard Tom Hanks utter his now famous “there’s no crying in baseball” line, I laughed because he’s right. Baseball is a game of endurance, persistence and toughness. Players aren’t meant to weep; they’re meant to win. Crying is for sissies, right?

Wrong. Given today’s news from Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig, there could be plenty of players overcome with emotion soon. Tears may not be far behind.

And even if there were no crying in baseball, the same could not be said for drugs, I’m sorry to say.

On Monday, the league announced the suspension of 13 players for violating their policy on performance-enhancing drugs. All the men have ties to Biogenesis, the south Florida clinic notorious for providing players with illegal substances. And in twelve of the cases, players accepted 50-game suspensions without pay. The penalty for the thirteenth player, on the other hand, was a bit more punitive: suspension from 211 regular-season games through the 2014 season.

Who was the lucky recipient of this harsh punishment, you ask? As if you didn’t know. It was none other than the highest paid player in baseball, New York Yankeesaging superstar Alex Rodriguez. He is planning to appeal, of course, and the Major League Baseball Players Association seems to be supporting him… for now.

“I’m fighting for my life,” A-Rod told reporters after hearing the league’s decision. “I have to defend myself. If I don’t defend myself, no one else will.”

Surprise, A-Rod! You’re busted! (AP)

Among the players suspended for 50 games were Phillies pitcher Antonio Bastardo, Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz and Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Their suspensions were shorter since they were only guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs. Rodriguez received a heftier penalty because he not only possessed and used these drugs, but convinced others to do the same. He is also accused of “engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct or frustrate” the official investigation. Fortunately, A-Rod can play for the duration of his appeal, but beyond that there is no certainty.

The reality is that this could spell retirement for one of baseball’s greatest sluggers, especially if he sustains another injury and his suspension holds up. It would be a shame to see Rodriguez leave on such a low note—much like Pete Rose, who accepted a permanent ban from the Hall of Fame in 1989 amid allegations that he bet on baseball, including games in which he played (these allegations later became facts once Rose finally confessed to his crimes). Of course, a bigger shame is also the most obvious one: drugs in baseball. Better yet, drugs in sports.

Why do some athletes find it necessary to cheat? Are performance-enhancing drugs really a substitute for good, old-fashioned hard work and determination?

Obviously, players who turn to these substances do so because they want to compete at a higher level. They feel the pressure to excel—pressure intensified by the fresh crop of talented rookies each year—and must doubt their ability to compete, especially as they get older. Rather than buckling down and working hard to improve naturally—or accepting the fact that skill and talent fade with time—they use drugs to mask their deficiencies. And the end results are never good.

Just look at A-Rod. Even if his appeal is successful, his name is cleared and he returns to the game for several more years, the doubt cast by these allegations will remain. It’s like sportscasters sometimes say: there will always be an asterisk by Rodriguez’s name in the Hall of Fame… a blemish that will forever tarnish his legacy. And for what? To win a few more games or hit a few more home runs. The guy already has the most lucrative contract in American sports history!

Call me crazy, but I always felt that turning a game you love to play into a career was awesome enough. Toss in a multi-million dollar contract, worldwide acclaim and celebrity status and what you have is the best life anyone could ask for. Almost anyone, at least.

Jimmy Dugan was right. There is no crying in baseball. But if someone doesn’t clean up the game soon—if we don’t clean up athletics soon—tears will come as we mourn the loss of something both important and fundamental: sportsmanship.

I hope it isn’t too late.

Posted on August 6, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. “I’m fighting for my life.” Bull-pucky. He’s fighting for his $100 million contract. _iss on him. What a disgrace… just like Duckworth did deservingly to Castillo for taking money meant for truly wounded vets.

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