Thom Loverro: Baseball Hall of Fame deals with steroid users in its own way

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Soon the ballots will be in for this radioactive class for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and the debate will rage again over the absence of steroid users Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa -- all likely to fall short of the required 75 percent of the votes needed for election.

The debate will include a lot of passionate misinformation about the process itself. Critics will rail that the Hall of Fame shouldn't ignore the steroid era as if it never existed.

Yet there already is plenty of evidence of steroids in baseball in the museum section of the Hall.

Bonds' 756th home run ball is on display -- complete with the asterisk that fashion designer Marc Ecko branded it with before he donated it to Cooperstown.

By the way, Bonds declared five years ago that if Hall officials accepted the ball, he would boycott the Hall of Fame. Wonder how strong that position would be if through some miracle Bonds were elected -- or has that line in the sand disappeared along with the rest of Bonds' body, which has shrunk since he stopped playing baseball?

Contrast that with the permanent exhibit on display called: "Chasing the Dream: The Hank Aaron Story."

"We wanted to pick an icon to represent all record holders, and Hank stands above all with all the records he held when he retired and still holds," Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson told the National Press Club several years ago.

Please note that it is Bonds, with 762 career home runs, who has the career home run record -- not Aaron, who hit 755.

You need any more evidence?

Every October, Cooperstown sponsors a salute to Character and Courage.

Who was the Hall of Famer invited to speak at that weekend in October?

Ryne Sandberg -- the second baseman who spoke out during his induction speech in 2005 about steroids.

"In my day, if a guy came to spring training 20 pounds heavier than when he left, he was considered out of shape and was probably in trouble," Sandberg said. "When did it become OK for someone to hit home runs and forget how to play the rest of the game?"

In the promotion for Sandberg's appearance, Hall officials declared Sandberg "is promoting the value of healthy lifestyle choices featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's new 'Be A Superior Example' initiative to a new generation of players. ... The Hall of Fame will welcome Sandberg back to Cooperstown and share his stories of sportsmanship and integrity."

"Performance enhancing drugs are very dangerous, lethal and they are against the rules in professional baseball," Sandberg said. "Baseball does not need players to take shortcuts and to be misled that illegal drugs help their performance and that they have anything to gain from that."

The Hall of Fame acknowledges the steroid era -- just not the way its critics want it to.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Thom Loverro

Sports columnist
The Washington Examiner