For generations, pitchers used spitballs — not just spit, of course, but anything they could find — and scuffed baseballs to alter the way the ball moved to gain an advantage. That’s cheating. Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry made a career out of affecting the flight of baseball, and even wrote a book about it (seriously, it’s called “ Me and the Spitter .”) And for decades, players used amphetamines to give themselves a little pep in their step on the field, or as a way to recover from rough nights. Amphetamines are a banned substance now.
Eddie Mathews is causing us some major problems here. Here’s why: Mathews is not on our list. The writers did not vote him in until his fifth ballot — that means he clearly falls way, way, way below our standard of entry. But Mathews is the highest-rated comp on three of our remaining players: Mike Schmidt (a 920 similarity score), George Brett (an 854 similarity score) and Mickey Mantle (also an 854 similarity — shouldn’t this make Brett and Mantle, like identical twins?). This is problematic because we do not want Eddie Mathews fans shouting about how he belongs in our Hall when we so clearly know he does not. So … Schmidt and Brett are out. We hate to lose ’em — this means we will not have a third baseman in our Hall. But you know, third base is kind of a minor position anyway. If they could play defense, they’d be shortstops, right?
Which made Canseco’s second benefactor — Mike Wallace — all the more important. John Hamlin, a producer at 60 Minutes , had gotten a tip about Canseco’s book from a friend at another network. (The friend couldn’t act on it because his employer was a Major League Baseball rights holder.) Hamlin began calling baseball people and confirming the details. Almost no one would talk on the record, but they suggested that Canseco’s account was true. One of the few allegations Hamlin couldn’t verify was Canseco’s insistence that Roger Clemens was juicing.