COOPERSTOWN, NY — Little more than a month after his posthumous induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame was announced, former catcher Deacon White may not get to grace a plaque on Cooperstown’s hallowed walls this July. This year’s ceremony is already only the second in the sport’s history not to include any living players, with notable candidates Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa blacklisted for making use of performance enhancing drugs during their careers.
White – who died over seventy-two years ago – was one of three figures chosen to posthumously receive the honor instead, along with former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and umpire Hank O’Day. Deacon White was renowned in baseball for his bare-handed catching, at a time early in the sport when gloves were not in common use. He is officially recognized as making both the first hit and catch in professional baseball, for the Cleveland Forest Citys in 1871. His nineteen-year career was a celebrated one, unmarred for well over a century until his recently alleged drug use.
On Wednesday morning, the Hall was pained to report that allegations of drug abuse have surfaced regarding the catcher. Specifically that he was an avid user of laudanum before games, an opiate which likely helped to dull the pain of catching bare-handed. The inquiry had been launched by a pair of chemistry students at Iowa State University, who noted that other catchers of the era played considerably shorter careers due to injury or deformity done their hands over long periods of play. Mitts and gloves did not become regular facets of the sport until the 1890s. The duo tracked down evidence supporting their theory from a number of sources, including pharmaceutical receipts and the diaries of teammates alluding to White’s doping.
The baseball star’s relatives are furious over the charges, and examination of the body is being arranged pending its exhumation. The chance that opiate residuals will remain in the body after such a long interment remains to be seen. As such, the allegations are still to be considered speculative until they can be chemically confirmed or dismissed. Be that as it may, the Hall of Fame is taking the news seriously. “Considering the controversy in recent years surrounding the extensive use of metabolic steroids, the reputation of the game itself is at stake. If there weren’t even ‘the good old days’ before doping, what standard could the MLB possibly hold its players to?” posed Hall director Jeff Idelson.
“Spirit of the game, my ass,” an irate Roger Clemens tweeted after the news. A player can only be on the ballot fifteen times, so for as long as the stigma surrounding PED use remains, some notable players such as himself may have a long time to languish in baseball’s purgatory.