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Baseball: Report hits home for baseball’s local ties

Baseball: Report hits home for baseball’s local ties

Baseball: Report hits home for baseball’s local ties


Mel Didier recently published a book, "Podnuh, Let Me Tell You a Story," recalling some of the high points of his 56 years in baseball.

If there’s a sequel, Thursday won’t be one of those memorable moments.

Didier, one of Louisiana’s premier baseball men and a former UL coach and athletic director, called Thursday’s release of the Mitchell Report a dark day for the national pastime.

"It hurts me so bad," said Didier, now a lead scout for the Texas Rangers. "A lot of people in baseball knew things were going on and didn’t say anything, and that’s what hurts me."

The Mitchell Report described a widespread drug culture in baseball, with approximately 80 players representing all 30 major league teams – seven of them Most Valuable Player award winners – cited for potentially illegal drug activities.

"Everyone in baseball knew about it," said Lafayette native and seven-year major leaguer Lyle Mouton. "Across the board, from players to owners and management. It was the post-strike era when baseball needed an influx of a fan base."

"We’ve known for years that people cheated a little," Didier said. "You’ve got saliva balls and those kind of things. But when you’re talking about this stuff – we’ve heard about (Barry) Bonds and (Mark) McGwire, guys like that, but when you see (Roger) Clemens’ name pop up, it really hurts you.

"When Buck Showalter and I came over here from Arizona, some news broke about someone doing this. I was pretty critical, and Buck said, ‘Mel, before you criticize others, be careful we don’t have people on it.’"

Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner cited 82 times by name in the report, was one of several high-profile players linked to steroids and human growth hormone in the 20-month investigation sanctioned by Major League Baseball.

The names didn’t come as a surprise to Mouton, the former St. Thomas More and LSU standout who played with the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers and Florida Marlins.

"I won’t be surprised by any names that come out, even from people you wouldn’t normally suspect," Mouton said Thursday. "It was about keeping up with the Joneses. Everybody wants to be the best, and guys are willing to do whatever it takes to be the best in their field and earn as much money as they can for their families."

UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux also wasn’t surprised at the report, one that shows an unseemly side of the pro game and one that unquestionably taints the game and its players.

"You’re playing 162 games at the major league level every year," Robichaux said. "The wear and tear on bodies forces those guys to look at alternatives to keep healthy and to play at a high level. Companies are coming out with something every day that enhances the body more, whether it be equipment, exercise programs or things like this."

One of Didier’s closest friends among former players is Andre Dawson, and eight-year All-Star and the National League MVP in 1987.

"Andre told me a couple of years ago that he can’t say he wouldn’t have been involved if it had been available when he played," Didier said. "If people were getting an advantage on him, he might have had to do that to try to stay ahead."

The majority of the named players in the Mitchell Report are retired or out of the major leagues, but Mouton said their legacy will be affected.

"It’s opening up a can of worms," he said. "It’s going to be interesting to see what the backlash is going to be. There’s not going to be much you can do about the guys who are already retired, but it could affect guys with Hall of Fame credentials.

"I don’t know if you can do much about the past – it wasn’t illegal then. It wasn’t against the rules in baseball."

It’s only been in this decade that pro baseball’s rules changed, and Didier said the vehicle of change came begrudgingly from the players’ union.

"They’re the strongest union in the world," he said. "They control our game. They tell the commissioner what to do. You can’t do anything unless they OK it. Jerry Coangelo’s a powerful guy in basketball and baseball, and he told me he was going to do some things a few years ago to stop all this (steroids). I told him, ‘Don’t let me stop you, but you’re facing the strongest union ever.’"

Whether or not the Mitchell Report brings about significant change, both Robichaux and Didier said that fan backlash will be limited.

"For the majority of fans, I don’t think it will have an impact," Robichaux said. "The game will be tainted some. Every time somebody hits a home run, there’s always going to be questions of are they or are they not on something. That’s the downside – so many guys in baseball have never been involved in this, and they’re lumped in there."

"People still love the game, they go to the game and they’re going to continue to go to the game," Didier said. "There may be a little bit of downside, but when the Yankees play the Red Sox, they’re still going to be there."