Baseball is not the same

Published 4:28 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Boy, how the great old game of baseball has changed.

That was my thought recently when I first heard the news about New York Yankees superstar third baseman Alex Rodriguez admitting to using performance enhancing drugs when he was with the Texas Rangers in 2003.

As a lifetime baseball fan and current fan of the Atlanta Braves, I feel fortunate to have been raised in what I consider the greatest era of the game.

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I’m talking about the era from 1950 through 1955 that featured three of the all-time greats—Brooklyn Dodgers third baseman and Cairo native Jackie Robinson, New York Giants center fielder Willie Mays and New York Yankees center fielder Mickey Mantle.

As a youngster during those years, I was also fortunate to live in Keyport. N.J., my dad’s hometown, which was only 35 miles from New York City and in close proximity to Brooklyn’s Ebbetts Field, and New York’s Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium.

It was not unusual for church youth groups, Scouts or other youth organizations to charter buses to go into the city and see the Dodgers, Giants and Yankees play.

If I had saved some of my programs and trading cards from those days, they would probably be worth a lot of money today.

There were a lot of other great players on the three New York teams during that era, like first baseman Gil Hodges and catcher Roy Capinella of the Dodgers, pitcher Sal Magli of the Giants and catcher Yogi Berra of the Yankees. but the No. 1 stars were Robinson, Mays and Mantle.

In those days there weren’t any $1 million plus contracts. Stars like Robinson, Mays and Mantle, along with other players, had to work at off-season jobs to make ends meet.

Additionally, players back then had no idea what performance enhancing drugs were,

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condemning Rodriguez or any other players who have admitted using performance enhancing drugs,

In Rodriguez’s case, the drugs weren’t illegal when his random positive test occurred in 2003. They became illegal the next year.

Today there is just so much speculation about which players have used performance enhancing drugs and which players haven’t.

For long time baseball fans like me, it kind of taints many of the game’s all-time records.

While I enjoy covering all sports, baseball has always been my favorite.

I particularly enjoyed keeping up with the major league careers of infielder Earnest Riles and pitcher Brian Powell, two outstanding performers I had the pleasure of covering during their Bainbridge High School Bearcat careers.

The major league careers of Riles and Powell are highlighted on special baseball plaques on the back of the home dugout at Bearcat Field.