Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: When it comes to steroid suspects, I go with my gut

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions

A guy by the name of John Bosley Ziegler died of heart failure in 1983.

He suffered from a heart disease and reportedly it was caused by experimenting with steroids.

How fitting.

This is the same guy who was a doctor in Maryland and was known as “the Godfather of Steroids” whom, legend has it, brought steroids into the American sports culture in the 1950s.

Thanks a lot, Dr. Ziegler. Not only have you helped ruin a lot of lives, you have made my Decembers a lot tougher.

After covering the Cubs for 10 straight years from 1998-2007, I was given the honor of having  a Major League Baseball Hall of Fame vote.

Every December I get a ballot and have to turn it in with a checkmark next to anywhere from zero to 10 names. For the second year in a row, I used up all 10. I voted for the four guys who made it – Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.

I also voted for Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith and Larry Walker.

But I did not vote for numbers-worthy candidates Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.  

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – this is a vote and it’s up to each voter to select his or her  Hall of Famers based on their own conscience and feelings. There is no right or wrong answer. Another one of the 548 voters of 2015 may think 10 other guys should make it instead of my 10 and there isn’t a thing I can say about it.

Those hardliners who never vote for any first-time player on the ballot? I think that’s flawed reasoning but it’s their vote and their right and I respect that.

Two people this year even voted for former Cubs and Sox pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon for God’s sake. Do I think that’s a bad choice? Yes. But the voters had their reasons.

By the way, if there was a Hall of Fame for comedic stories that couldn’t be published in the paper regarding “Flash” and cell phones, he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But on to more serious matters, thanks to Dr. Ziegler.

A candidate needs to be on 75 percent of the ballots to get in and I’m not alone in not voting for Sosa (who picked up just 6.6 percent of the vote), McGwire (10 percent), Bonds (36.8 percent) and Clemens (37.5 percent).

 These guys are heavily linked to steroids even though the evidence is more circumstantial than substantial.

Piazza (69.9 percent) and Bagwell (55.7 percent) have had whispers of possible steroid use during their careers and perhaps that’s why they are not in yet.

I don’t know who did what for sure. I was once told in the early 2000s by a player that 80 percent of his peers were juicing at one point. So are 80 percent of the guys on the ballot suspects? You bet.

Are the four guys who will be inducted clean? Probably. But you never know.

I may suspect that Sosa, whom I had a great relationship with when he was with the North Siders, may have taken more than just the Flintstone Vitamins that he joked that he took but I don’t know for sure. Same with the other guys I didn’t vote for.

Meanwhile, I can’t prove Piazza or Bagwell didn’t juice up.

The answer lies in the gut. And I have a pretty big gut.

I have a gut feeling that Sosa and the boys cheated and used illegal steroids and a gut feeling that Piazza and Bagwell didn’t.

These are tough choices and tough decisions and even after I make them, I’m not 100 percent sure I did the right thing.

But that’s how it is and how it will be for several years down the line.

Thanks Dr. Ziegler.

(HEADLINE) Sports and dying

The Will County Old Timers Baseball group has a big banquet in Joliet every year and I used to go to it once in a while.

There is a tradition in which they recognize those members who died the previous year, calling it their “last turn at bat.”

To insiders, they are sincere about this tradition and these folks bow there head and then listen to someone somberly sing “My Buddy.’’

But to outsiders, calling the “last turn at bat” for a dead guy is kind of funny, corny and perhaps a little tasteless.

I see it both ways, but I’ll give the Old Timers the benefit of the doubt on this one.

That brings me to last week, when I saw a copy of the Windy City Bowling News.

This fine paper covers the Chicago bowling scene like a blanket.

But when I saw their obituary section was labelled the “Windy City Final Frame” I have to admit I laughed out loud.

Using sports metaphors and death is a delicate balance.