Sports Movies: “61*” (2001)

Screenshot Barry Pepper as Roger Maris in 61 movie

There was a time when baseball’s home run record really meant something. It was mythical. Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in 1927, hitting more home runs than 12 teams that year!

Ruth’s home run record stood for 34 years, until Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961, though Major League Baseball shamefully put an asterisk next to Maris’s record. The Babe had set the record during a 154-game season, while Maris broke the record during a 162-game season. Maris also broke the record in a season following expansion, further angering baseball purists who felt he didn’t deserve to be labeled the Home Run King.

The steroid era made discussions of the record even more controversial. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa shattered the record in the memorable 1998 season when McGwire hit 70 home runs and Sosa hit 66. Barry Bonds followed that with an amazing 73 in the 2001 season. But the steroid scandal exposed McGuire, Sosa and Bonds, making a mockery of the home run record. This context helps explain why so many wanted to crown Aaron Judge as the “true” holder of the record with his 62 home runs in the 2022 season.

“61*” is a historical drama that tells the story of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle as they chased the Babe’s record in the 1961 season. Mantle was already a legend in the minds of most baseball fans, while Maris was the new kid on the block on New York even though he won the MVP in 1960 in his first season as a Yankee.

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A-Rod finally overcomes a nasty case of unclutchitis to hit No. 600

Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player to hit 600 home runs when he launched a Shaun Marcum 2-0 pitch over the centerfield wall during the Yankees’ game with the Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon.

Excuse me while I wet myself.

The blast broke a string of 12 games in which A-Rod was so overcome with pressure that he managed to hit only .177 with no home runs. While I can’t prove that pressure was the thing that was holding him back, rumor has it he hasn’t slept in nearly 10 nights and has often been seen shaking uncontrollably at the mere mention that he has to perform. (All right, so I can’t prove that either.)

A-Rod now joins an elite club that includes Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630) and Sammy Sosa (609) to have accomplished the feat.

Too bad only four of those seven players didn’t need to enlist the help of performance-enhancing drugs in order to reach the milestone.

So way to go, A-HoleRod. Congratulations, or something.

Former Cub Sandberg says Sosa doesn’t belong in Hall of Fame

Former Cubs infielder Ryne Sandberg recently said on a Chicago radio show that Sammy Sosa shouldn’t be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after the New York Times reported last week that he tested positive for PEDs in 2003.

Appearing on the “Waddle & Silvy” show on ESPN 1000, Sandberg was asked whether Sosa belongs in the Hall of Fame. “I don’t think so,” he said.

“They use the word ‘integrity’ in describing a Hall of Famer in the logo of the Hall of Fame, and I think there are gonna be quite a few players that are not going to get in,” Sandberg said. “It’s been evident with the sportswriters who vote them in, with what they’ve done with Mark McGwire getting in the 20 percent range.

“We have some other players … like [Rafael] Palmeiro coming up soon, and it’ll be up to the sportswriters to speak loud and clear about that. I don’t see any of those guys getting in.”

“I was around Sammy for about five years before I retired, and there wasn’t anything going on then,” Sandberg said. “I did admire the hard work he put in. He was one of the first guys down to the batting cage, hitting extra. I figured he was working out hard in the offseason to get bigger. It was just happening throughout the game, that even myself was blinded by what was really happening, maybe starting in the ’98 season.

“I think it’s very unfortunate. I think suspicions were there as they are with some other players. Those players are now put in a category of being tainted players with tainted stats. I think it’s obviously something that was going on in the game. Players participated in it and, as the names have come out, I think that they will be punished for that.”

Isn’t it ironic that Sosa and McGwire essentially saved baseball after the ’94 strike with their steroid-invested home run derby, yet they’ll probably both be denied of baseball’s most cherished honor because they cheated to accomplish what they did?

Sandberg didn’t say anything that we weren’t already thinking ourselves. Sosa might have been one of the hardest working players in the game when he played, but he juiced (allegedly) and therefore doesn’t deserve to be inducted into the hall. Sosa wanted to hit a bunch of home runs and inflate his power numbers, so he took PEDs and accomplished what he set out to do. But now he has to pay and part of the punishment is not having his name listed aside Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and Mickey Mantle.

Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. I agree with Sandberg and while baseball didn’t have a steroid policy in place before 2003 and those tests were supposed to be anonymous, the bottom line is that Sosa cheated. We shouldn’t turn a blind eye to that like baseball turned a blind eye to their steroid mess in the first place.

Selig upset with steroid leaks

According to Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune, baseball commissioner Bud Selig is upset that names from the 2003 list of players who tested positive for banned substances are being leaked to the media.

Apparently Selig and others around Major League Baseball believe that a lawyer with the U.S. Attorney’s office (either past or present) ignored a court seal in order to give Sammy Sosa’s name to Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Daily News, who reported yesterday that the slugger was on the ’03 list.

I don’t blame Selig for being peeved that someone is leaking names that were supposed to be kept anonymous. After all, the only reason the player’s union agreed to the ’03 drug testing was because the players who tested positive wouldn’t be punished and because their names would never be released.

That said – give…me…a…break. If Selig wants to be upset with anything, how about he get upset with himself, the owners and the player’s union that allowed us to get to this point. He turned a blind eye to the steroid issue and now he wants to play victim. I guess he has to put on this little front about being mad about the leaks in efforts to settle down the player’s union, but he has nobody to blame but himself for this mess.

What Selig should do is go back on his word to the player’s union and release the rest of the 104 names on that 2003 list before the media does. A-Rod and Sosa’s names have already been released – how much longer until more names are announced? If Selig thinks that the media is going to stop digging, he has another thing coming. He may anger the players and the union by releasing the names, but it’s well past time for people to start taking responsibility for what has happened to the game of baseball.

Report: Sosa worked out with A-Rod’s banned trainer

According to a report by the New York Daily News, Sammy Sosa worked out with Alex Rodriguez’s trainer Angel Presinal, who was banned by MLB for his involvement in selling and distributing performance-enhancing drugs.

“He worked with him in 2001, 2002 and 2003 in the Dominican Republic,” the source said.

Because Sosa is believed to have worked with Presinal in the D.R., where steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs are legal and easy to obtain, and thanks to an artfully crafted statement at the 2005 congressional steroid hearing, it is unclear whether he would be subject to a congressional perjury investigation.

Sosa, according to a report posted on The New York Times Web site yesterday, tested positive in 2003 during survey testing conducted by Major League Baseball and the Players Association to determine whether the sport needed to implement a permanent drug program. Two years later, Sosa, accompanied by a translator and a lawyer, appeared on a panel before the House Committee on Government Reform with Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Curt Schilling and Rafael Palmeiro and said he had “never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs.”

“I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything,” Sosa said during the 11-hour, March 17, 2005, hearing. “I’ve not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic.”

That sneaky bitch – Sosa said exactly the right thing not to get him into trouble. If he took steroids in the Dominican Republic and they’re legal there, then technically he didn’t break any laws in the United States or the D.R. as he said. And not all steroids are injected, so he could be bending the truth when he said he’s never had anything injected into himself or had anyone else inject him.

If writers elect this chump into the Hall of Fame then baseball as we know it should cease to exists.

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