Gear up for the start of baseball season next week with a scintillating read from the newest issue of Labor: Sarah F. Rose's and Joshua A. T. Salzmann's "Bionic Ballplayers: Risk, Profit, and the Body as Commodity, 1964-2007."
Read an excerpt:
I was nervous.... [My roommate] and I went into my bedroom. I pulled down my shorts and rubbed a cotton swab over a spot on my right [butt] cheek. It’s an inch-and-a-half needle, and you want to make sure it’s in the muscle tissue. You gotta make your muscle totally relaxed, so I made my right leg as limp as I could. Then he poked me.
— Anonymous professional baseball player
By the turn of the twenty-first century, scenes like this had become commonplace, as many ballplayers took anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, and other substances to enhance their performance and reduce wear and tear on their bodies. These bodily interventions have brought widespread moral condemnation. In 2002, Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers, for instance, voiced common ethical objections to steroid use, explaining, 'My belief is that God gave you a certain amount of ability, and I don't want to enhance it by doing something that is not natural and creates and unfair advantage.' Similar condemnations came from outside players' ranks, notably in the Mitchell Commission's 2007 report on steroid use in Major League Baseball, which condemned steroid users for violating federal law and 'distort[ing] the fairness of competition.' This repeated focus on ballplayers' personal immorality, however, has led Mitchell and other commentators to take their eye off the ball, namely, the changing dynamics of the business of baseball.