Where All Of The Asterisks Really Should Go

By Gordon Jackson
Updated: August 10, 2007

Asterisk (as’ ter isk), n. a starlike sign used in printing to indicate footnotes references, omissions, etc. Commonly used next to sports record statistics if it’s determined that such record was achieved by some form of a clear and distinct advantage given to the individual.

Among Legends

DALLAS — So you want to put an asterisk by Barry Bonds’ 756 career home runs? As you play Baseball Commissioner, you want to rule that Bonds unfairly became the all-time home run leader, surpassing the great Hank Aaron, due to an alleged use of performance enhancing steroids (even though he has never tested positive and the federal government has not been able to indict him the past five years) and that his record should not count.

You further wish to discount Bonds’ accomplishment because of his unpopular reputation of consistently having been unfriendly to the media and public. Go ahead, make your mark.

Now that you have and made yourself a proud member of the asterisk-crazed sector of the sports fans community, just remember that — in the name of true fairness and equal treatment — you’re going to have to go to the asterisk store and buy some more.

Here’s where you need to put them.

You probably want to follow up and put an asterisk by Bonds’ 73 single-season home runs in 2001. Fair enough. Since Bonds is only suspected of using steroids, you will also need to put asterisks by other record-breaking events, such as when Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals broke Roger Maris’ single-season home run mark in 1998, hitting 70 home runs.

You can add some asterisks by his statements at the 2005 congressional hearing on steroids, when he constantly remarked that he’s not here to talk about the past.

Bought some more asterisks? Put one on each player that has either confessed or been disciplined for steroid use, including the pitchers.

When you count both major and minor league players, pitchers have made up 31 of 68 players (46 percent) that have been suspended between 10 days and 50 games for use of anabolic steroids since Major League Baseball implemented their new steroid policy.

Put one by each pitcher who improved their fastballs by three to five miles and hour and as much as eight miles an hour, according to what players like Curt Schilling and Eric Byrnes have told several journalists.

That brings a question to you “asterisk-ologists,” hypothetically speaking, or course. If a pitcher using steroids pitches to a hitter using steroids, does that even things out, or do you put asterisks by both of them?

Knowing your position, you will probably want to do the latter.

Also, if the double-steroid effect levels the playing field, Bonds probably still managed to hit home runs on some of these pitchers. If he didn’t, it is unfair to Bonds?

Oh, you’re in luck. There’s a sale going on at the asterisk store. And you’re going to need some more.

If you’re marking asterisks by Bonds because of his behavior to the media, you need one for Steve Carlton and his statistics and accolades. Remember Steve? He’s the 1994 Hall of Famer, four-time Cy Young Award winning and 329-win pitcher who is fourth all-time in career strikeouts and 11th in career wins.

In the middle of a bad season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1973, offended by questions about his training program, he severed all ties with the media for 13 seasons, until his last with the Phillies in 1986.

It’s interesting how Carlton’s self-imposed silence did not deter sportswriters from giving him his just due. But you, the “asterisk-ologist,” are fair and equal, so put an asterisk by his name, as well as current New York Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson, who has been called the “billboard of anti-social behavior.”

Will any records he has set and will set be challenged?

But, here’s where you’re going to need a truckload of asterisks. Put asterisks by every major league record set before April 15, 1947 — when Jackie Robinson broke the infamous color line of the sport.

Whether it was a Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby or other “great” hitters during this era, they never hit regularly on an official level against any of the Negro League pitchers barred from the league, like the dominant Satchel Paige or equally prolific Smokey Joe Williams or the legendary Rube Foster.

On the other side of the coin, the Christy Mathewsons, Cy Youngs or Walter Johnsons never had to officially pitch to hitters like Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Buck O’Neill or Oscar Charleston.

Let’s go further. How about managers like John McGraw, Miller Huggins or Connie Mack matching wits with O’Neill and Charleston under the dugout. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the achievements of all of these Anglo baseball figures would have been entirely different had Blacks been ingrained into the Major Leagues, where they belonged.

Clearly, Bonds’ is not perfect as a ballplayer or a man. Neither is the world. Is it fair to single him out as the poster child of steroids or grumpy players? If he is not deserving of the home run record, history will find a way of correcting it.

In the meantime, give him his props.

That is if you want to truly be fair and equal — if you truly give a damn about that.

If not, then put an asterisk by yourself, if you’ve got any left.