Former two-sport athlete and Baltimore native Brian Jordan believes baseball players who used performance-enhancing drugs prior to drug testing should still be allowed in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Mandatory drug testing in MLB began in 2004, with first-time offenders receiving suspensions beginning in 2005. There were many notable players suspected of using PEDs before mandatory testing kicked in, including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Jordan’s former teammate, Mark McGwire.
McGwire was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1997 season. Jordan played with McGwire in St. Louis from 1997-1998, with McGwire hitting 70 homers in the latter season. McGwire’s race for the single-season home run record with Sosa was recently documented in ESPN’s 30 for 30 film “Long Gone Summer.”
“If you want to put asterisks by people’s names you can go far back as you want to see illegal stuff being done, so that’s why I say those guys who used steroids before drug testing was implemented, you can’t continue to penalize those guys,” Jordan said on Glenn Clark Radio June 16. “They were good ballplayers either way you look at it. You’ve got to have great hand-eye coordination regardless of how many steroids you used.”
Jordan spent three seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons as a defensive back (1989-1991), then was an outfielder in the big leagues from 1992-2006. He was caught off guard when he arrived at Cardinals spring training in 1992 and saw the competition. He didn’t realize there was no testing program in baseball and said everyone had a choice whether to use or not. Some decided it was their way to stay on the field.
Jordan said an asterisk is necessary for players who used performance-enhancing drugs after testing was implemented, but what about players in the ‘90s?
“They left it up to the players to have choices and when it comes to drugs, I’m totally against it, but if you don’t have rules and regulations stopping players from using it, especially in the game of baseball, they’re not at fault,” said Jordan, a graduate of Milford Mill Academy. “When I came to the league from the NFL, we played the Texas Rangers. I saw Jose Canseco, Juan Gonzalez, Julio Franco, and I thought we were playing against the Dallas Cowboys.”
McGwire wasn’t the only one who played well with the Cardinals in 1998. Jordan and Ray Lankford had strong seasons, too. Jordan hit .316/.368/.534 with 25 home runs and 91 RBIs, while Lankford hit .293/.391/.540 with 31 homers and a career-best 105 RBIs.
St. Louis finished 83-79 and missed the playoffs, but the real story was the competition between McGwire and Sosa for the home run crown. Sosa hit 66 that season and briefly held the lead late in the season with that 66th homer. Jordan remembers the moment when the scoreboard showed that Sosa had taken the lead.
“We were constantly looking up, and when we saw that 66, everyone was like, ‘Aw man, here we go, come on Mark,’” Jordan said. “Everyone was putting out pom-poms and we were becoming cheerleaders hoping Mark would come through and get it done.”
Jordan said that early in the season pitchers would pitch around McGwire, but because Jordan and Lankford were also playing well, opposing managers eventually decided to take their chances with McGwire.
“It was pick your poison, and I think after a while pitchers took it as a challenge to get Mark McGwire out,” Jordan said. “That was the fun part about it — no one was pitching around Mark McGwire anymore. They were going right at him and saying, ‘Hit me if you can,’ and of course we saw the results of that.”
For more from Jordan, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Louis Cardinals Archive