Amid Steroid Era, Aaron’s Legacy Shines

The other day, I saw a fantastic cartoon by Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It shows a huge Hank Aaron, the all-time baseball great, towering over the likes of steroid-taking cheaters Barry Bonds (technically, but scandalously, the all-time home run king), Alex “A-Fraud” Rodriguez, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens.

As you can see by clicking on the image above, the quote bubble coming from Rodriguez reads: “How come when WE take steroids, HE gets bigger?”

It’s quite a different scenario than 1998.

That is the year McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated baseball fans with their single-season home run record chase. At the time, I was a reporter for The Courier News in Elgin, Ill., and wrote a column called “By the Numbers.”

It was all the excuse I needed to research 80 years of baseball’s most fearsome sluggers’ statistics, to see how McGwire, Sosa and others stacked up against history.

Along the way, I invented the Home Run Power Ratio, a home run inflation index that enables relevant comparisons between players from various generations by objectively gauging how they fared against their peers.

I wrote various pieces on the HRPR, including one for a grand baseball publication called The Elysian Fields Quarterly.

Then, at the end of the 1999 season, Sports Illustrated, published
a brief piece, “Home Run Standouts,” on the HRPR.

Alas, the numbers don’t seem so objective any longer, as revelations about steroid use continue to dog some of the game’s biggest names.


The latest is Rodriguez, the heir apparent to the career home run record. Long known as “A-Rod,” he will forevermore have to live with the “A-Fraud” label.

And in terms of legacy and reputation, that’s one development impossible to fully measure.

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