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Steroid Sluggers: The Major League Home Run Hitting Offenders

Updated on June 21, 2017

The Steroid Era in Major League Baseball

I'm not sure anyone can say with absolute certainty who the first major league baseball player was to use steroids. It can't be determined where, when, or who it all began with. I will say that the steroid era got started in 1986, the year Jose Canseco won the American League Rookie Of The Year award. There can be little doubt that his success influenced his young teammate, Mark McGwire. The very next year, McGwire won the Rookie Of The Year award himself.

In that same year as well, there was another guy who played his first full season. Barry Bonds was spectacular for many seasons before he ever used steroids. Were it not for the money and limelight players like Canseco, Sosa, and McGwire got, he'd probably have never used them at all. The same could be said for quite a lot of the others who used and abused PEDs. The biggest damage of steroid use may be on the young and impressionable admirers who mimic these successful athletes.

Jose Canseco was featured with his brother Ozzy in a Sports Illustrated article. The piece did not talk about how they were great baseball players, but rather how far they could sometimes hit a baseball. Hitting a home run on occasion was no longer enough. The bar was raised and now everyone wanted to hit more further and frequently.

Will steroid use ever truly end? Probably not. There's just too much money to be made for a slugger to not use them. The real problem is the motivation to cheat and the lack of a true stigma or punishment for it. It's a classic cat-and-mouse game in regards to drug testing. As soon as one substance is banned and a test is developed for it, a chemist somewhere will find another substance that is not yet technically banned or tested for.

The players listed here are the biggest names from the BALCO scandal. They are the big shots that hit long shots and are now even longer shots to ever make it into the MLB Hall of Fame.

A young Jose Canseco with the Oakland Athletics.
A young Jose Canseco with the Oakland Athletics. | Source

Jose Canseco

Canseco has admitted that his entire career has been a steroids experiment. I can certainly admire his candid honesty.

He has made it plain and simple—he wanted to be the very best in baseball. He knew other people were using steroids, so he felt he also had to use them to be able to compete. Ignore the fact that he basically promoted their use. He was making big money, and the fans ate it up. He was a star that delivered what the fans wanted to see.

His success at batting led to everyone aiming not only for more home runs but also bigger ones. People started caring for the numbers on the tape measure just as much as the numbers on the scoreboard.

Another thing Canseco accomplished was luring fans to the ballparks an hour or so before the games. They wanted to see the home run spectacle during his batting practice. I was able to witness it. I went to a game with my family at the old Arlington Stadium when the Oakland Athletics had come to play my Texas Rangers. We got there early and saw the displays of power from Canseco and McGuire. I recall my dad, who was much younger and much larger than I am now, leaping for a Canseco batting practice home run. He almost had it. He was able to touch the ball but it was hit so hard that it popped right out of his hand and into someone else's.

In terms of accomplishments, Jose Canseco was the first player to ever get 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a single season. He also hit the longest home run ever seen in Toronto's Skydome. In the end though, it was all due to cheating. The fact that everyone else was cheating doesn't justify what Jose did. He's a farce, a cheat, a bully, and an occasional violent criminal. He's not Hall of Fame material.

In the end, he will forever be remembered as the man who fueled the disgrace of the steroid era. Perhaps also as the guy who once let a ball bounce off his head for a home run.

Jose Canseco Hits One Into the Fourth Deck in Toronto's Skydome

Mark McGwire had 4 consecutive seasons of hitting at least 50 home runs.
Mark McGwire had 4 consecutive seasons of hitting at least 50 home runs. | Source

Mark McGwire

Mark McGwire can be thought of as the star pupil of Jose Canseco. He soaked up all his knowledge and reached higher peaks in the realm of steroid wisdom. He exceeded all of Canseco's achievements by a mile. The duo were known as the Bash Brothers, a modern day Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. The difference is that they relied on steroids rather than hard work and skill.

During his rookie season with the Oakland Athletics in 1987, McGwire was tall and skinny. Ten years later, he'd look like he gained another 75 pounds of solid muscle. Fans know one of the biggest jokes in the sport is the weight of the players that are listed on baseball cards and programs. Big Mac's official size was listed at 6'5" and 215 lbs. Feel free to laugh, I'm sure they weighed him during his fist season and never bothered to do it again even after growing bigger.

In his career, he would hit a total of 583 home runs. He achieved that total in fewer at bats than anyone else. He retired after the 2001 season due to problems with his vision. This was likely due to the use of anabolic steroids, something he'd finally admit to using in 2010.

Mark McGwire Admits, Apologizes for Steroid Use

Does that even look like the same man?
Does that even look like the same man?

Barry Bonds

If there was ever a player in Major League Baseball who didn't need to cheat to win multiple MVP awards and make it into the Hall of Fame, it was Barry Bonds. He was easily one of the most talented men to ever play the game of baseball. His early seasons of greatness were untainted by illegal drug use. However, he's forever going to be known as the all-time home run king with an asterisk next to his title.

Bonds was a 14-time All Star and holds the record for most MVP awards at seven. His biggest claim to fame is holding the all-time records for home runs in a season and in a career. These numbers would normally be an easy ticket into the Hall of Fame. However, he was nowhere near close to getting voted into Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility in 2013.

It is widely speculated that Bonds started using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs in 1998. Why would he start using then? Well, the 1998 season was when McGwire and Sammy Sosa spent all summer racing each other to see who would set the new seasonal home run record. Both would eclipse Roger Maris' record. Bonds wanted in on the glory. He would go on to shatter the steroid-fueled McGwire record with one of his own. If you look at his statistics from 1998, he's still a Hall of Fame player. However, no matter how many times he's said he didn't cheat, we all know perfectly well that he did.

Just look at those arms! Sammy Sosa still felt the need to cheat even further with a corked baseball bat.
Just look at those arms! Sammy Sosa still felt the need to cheat even further with a corked baseball bat. | Source

Sammy Sosa

If there is anything more offensive than Barry Bonds refusing to admit to using steroids in the face of the mountains of evidence, then it is Sammy Sosa using corked bats in addition to steroids. The incident was caught on television and took cheating to a whole new level. Slammin' Sammy certainly wasn't the only player to cheat but his case is the most insulting when he claimed it was all just an honest mistake. He said he mistakenly grabbed that corked bat, a bat he supposedly used only in batting practice.

It's deeply insulting how he thinks we are idiots. He claimed to be drug-free in 2005 when he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003. Sosa finished his career right where he started it, with the Texas Rangers. He finished with 609 career home runs. For three seasons, he hit more than the steroid-free Roger Maris record of 61 in a season.

To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything. I have not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic. I have been tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean.

— Sammy Sosa in 2005 before the US congress
After lying to congress, Palmerio snitched out Miguel Tejada.
After lying to congress, Palmerio snitched out Miguel Tejada. | Source

Rafael Palmeiro

When Rafael Palmeiro first made it to the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs, he was never someone you would imagine having over 500 home runs and steroid suspicions hanging over his head. I recall being very joyful when I heard the Texas Rangers had acquired Palmeiro. What a terrific hitter for my team to have!

He was just what we needed for his first few seasons, a first baseman who never missed a ground ball and a left-handed hitter who could always be counted on to hit line drives. Palmeiro proved to be a great player for Texas, and then for Baltimore; he would trade between these teams two more times in his career. During his first stint with the Rangers, it became clear he was emerging as a player who could hit the long ball with increasing regularity.

He just didn't look like a steroid user. His body never became a hulking mass of muscle, it just got a tad bit larger. He never had acne, vision trouble, or fits of roid rage. But after Canseco retired, he bragged that he'd personally injected Palmeiro with steroids. Palmeiro would later test positive for an anabolic steroid called stanozolol.

He would retire after the 2005 season, and he'd do so after recording over 3,000 hits and 569 home runs. He'd then take a job promoting another performance enhancing drug. This one was for a different kind of playing field; he became a spokesman for Viagra.

Lying for the Camera

Alex Rodriguez

Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez, often referred to as A-Rod, is a man that never needed a chemical to cheat. He had the skills to be a Hall of Fame-caliber player. Money is what A-Rod will be remembered for. It's what comes to mind before his spectacular statistics or even his admission to steroid use on national television. He even blamed his use of PEDs on the pressure to make so much money.

In 2000, he signed a 10 year contract with the Texas Rangers for $252 million dollars. The next three years, he put up astounding offensive numbers and played well on defense as well. He'd win two American League MVP awards in a row. After his third year of raising his offensive stats, he went to the New York Yankees. Rodriguez raised his annual salary from $25 million to $31 million.

Rodriguez admitted to steroid use while he played for the Rangers. The problem I have with this is that he implies that he stopped when he got to the New York Yankees. This seems pretty doubtful. A note of interest is that, with the exception of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, every player on this list has had a stint with the Texas Rangers. It is interesting that the organization has not shouldered any type of responsibility or taken any criticism for potentially being a major part of the steroid scandal.

So how good has Rodriguez been as a player? Well, he's the youngest person to ever get to 500 home runs in a career. He's also the youngest person to ever get to 600 home runs in a career. He saw a major drop in performance during his last few seasons, a possible indication that steroids had finally taken their toll on him.

Manny Ramirez

After failing a drug test for the third time in his career, Manny Ramirez chose to retire rather than serve a 100 game suspension. Later in 2012, he was arrested in a domestic violence incident. He had been trying to make a comeback to the MLB.

How good was Manny Ramirez? During his 18 year career, he was voted to the All Star team 12 times, won nine Silver Sugger awards, two Hank Aaron awards, and was a World Series MVP. He led the American League in RBIs and home runs on one occasion each. He also had the league batting crown with an average of .349. He led the AL in slugging percentage three times. He finished with 555 career home runs and 1831 RBIs.

How many years was he juiced? Only Manny knows.

Juan Gonzalez

Juan Alberto González Vázquez was at one time the single best offensive player in all of baseball. I saw Juan on television when he was 19 years old. He hit a baseball into the second deck in the left field of the old Yankee Stadium. It was the biggest hit anyone had seen there in a long time. Juan looked like he barely weighed 180 pounds at the time.

In 1992, Jose Canseco was traded to the Texas Rangers where Gonzalez played. When he started using steroids is unclear, but Canseco flung Juan's name around all throughout his book. I believe it is likely that Jose turned Juan on to steroids.

Gonzalez appeared larger and stronger than Canseco over the years. But after the 2001 season, his never-ending injuries took their toll on him. He'd finish his career in Texas with 434 home runs, over 1400 RBIs, and two AL MVP awards.

It's my opinion that Gonzalez had more raw talent than even Barry Bonds. If there is a lesson in all of this, it is that Bonds was perhaps smarter than all of these other guys. He started taking steroids much later in his career and his body suffered less for it.

Jason Giambi

Jason Gilbert Giambi is another case of a guy who put up outstanding offensive numbers for several consecutive seasons. He's also another guy who will likely never be forgiven by the Baseball Writers Association.

While he never led the AL in home runs, he did win an AL MVP award in 2000. He also lived in the limelight while playing for some big franchise teams and in a lot of postseason games. He charmed youngsters with his tattoos and his heavy metal star looks. He seemed like a very nice guy. He finished his career with 429 home runs and over 1400 RBI's.

Miguel Tejada

Miguel Odalis Tejada won an MVP award in 2002 simply because nobody wanted to see Alex Rodriguez win three in a row. It helped that the Athletics were great that year and the Rangers were not. Tejada was a good hitter and a terrific fielder who probably wouldn't have been involved in the steroid scandal were it not for Rafael Palmeiro snitching him out like a bitch.

The faces and the names just go on, and on, and on. I could never list them all here. PEDs are hardly the only substances used either. Manny Ramirez's third bust wasn't for steroids, but actually for a female fertility drug. It is given to men who seek to restart testosterone production in their system after finishing a steroid cycle. Baseball has an amphetamine problem, and even a Ritalin problem as well.

When our sporting heroes are rewarded incredible wealth for cheating, how could we expect a sporting culture that is any different from shady politicians and business leaders?

Will it ever matter to these players if they don't make it to the Hall Of Fame after they've earned hundreds of millions of dollars in their career? Hell no! They're happy to trade the plaques and ceremonies for big paydays. Until the money stops going to the cheaters in baseball, things won't change.

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    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
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      Wesman Todd Shaw 2 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I certainly agree Alex had no real need for chemicals, and that they probably didn't really improve his performance any. Thing is, here in Texas, Juan Gonzales looked like an even more ferocious offensive force than A-Rod; and people forget that Juan was a terrific outfielder too. He used to gun down so many runners with his arm. He seemed to be the most obvious future Hall of Fame guy ever. But he got so very very huge. He was so big at one point he looked comical. He looked so obviously on the steroids. And his muscles were out of balance, which led to him forever being unable to play; and to early retirement.

    • GaryKauffman profile image

      GaryKauffman 2 months ago from North Augusta, South Carolina

      Good article about a bad subject. I think the player who most wasted his good name with steroids was Alex Rodriguez. The steroid use probably contributed to his hip problems that caused him to miss many games and, of course, miss a whole season to suspension. He may have hit a few more homers because of using steroids, but if he hadn't used steroids he would have been able to play more of those games and probably end up with just as many homers - certainly well over 600 and a ticket to Cooperstown.

    • Angel Guzman profile image

      Angel Guzman 6 months ago from Joliet, Illinois

      Oh wow did they have to cheat!? Great article. You forgot to mention Greg Vaughn and Glenallen Hill. Who knows how many players truly took steroids. Being a Chicago Cubs fan I'm disappointed in Sosa.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 3 years ago from Iowa

      I'm a Cubs fan and my husband is a Cardinals fan, and that summer that McGwire and Sosa were in the home run race together was so fun for us. But then they both turned out to be a couple of cheatin' cheaters. Sigh.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Achievements that are assisted by steroids cannot be equated at all to achievements without such substances. Good run-down of the guilty parties. You know what would be awesome is a side-bar that lists the negative side-effects of steroids?

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image

      AlexDrinkH2O 4 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      You cannot change history by negating the scores of all the games that had players who used steroids - that would be sheer folly -- what you CAN do is change the record books - to wit:

      Single season home run champion - Roger Maris, 61 homers, 1961

      All-time home run champ - Henry Aaron - 755

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
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      Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Um no - but if the problem is to end, then it has to be dealt with seriously.

      Is Bonds in the hall of fame? no, no he isn't. Obviously, lots of folks see it like I do...the folks in the baseball writers association.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 4 years ago from Southern California

      With all the players that have taken steroids, you might as well give up on baseball. I just don't know what your problem is about steroids. I gave my position and gave examples, but you just keep coming back to knee jerk no steroids.

      You will have to invalidate most of the pennant and world series wins as being tainted by steroids.

      The better route would be to leave your pedestal non steroid baseball, and have new leagues that don't care about steroids. Of course the winner of these leagues would not be allowed to play the non steroid league because the steroids would win.

      Bye

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
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      Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      michiganman567 6 - Yeah, Jose was likely more interested in selling that book of his than telling the truth about anything.....but whether he knew anything about Clemens or not...I think he wound up being right about that one!

    • michiganman567 profile image

      michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan

      Nice write up. I don't think that Jose Canseco's word on who took steroids is really gospel. Jose is a liar. He sent his brother to appearances to swindle people. He said that Clemens took steroids, then he changed his mind on it.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
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      Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I agree, steroid use should be a permanent ban.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 4 years ago from Southern California

      The game can have rules, which it does, but some rules need to be changed.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
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      Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Ib radmasters - a game without rules is not a game...that would be a WAR.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 4 years ago from Southern California

      The rules are meant to be broken, just like the number of games played per year, and the playing with the other league during the year.

      The baseball bats have changed, and so has the baseballs.

      The baseball fields have changed.

      What cheats if everyone is able to do it, it is only rules that prevented that from happening.

      Are you going to take away Babe Ruth's accomplishment because he was an alcoholic. I realize that wasn't in the rules, but does it make any difference?

      Does a 7 foot basketball player play the game any better than a six and half foot Kobe Byrant, even though there is a half foot advantage? No one has moved the basket since the players went from six foot to seven feet.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
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      Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      While that may be true - steroids are absolutely cheats, and steroid users are cheating...breaking the rules, gaming the system, and doing so dishonestly.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 4 years ago from Southern California

      Steroids don't give baseball players talent.

      Make up a team of weightlifters and see how they do in professional baseball.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
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      Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      andyglean - heck yes! If that ever happened before or since, then I sure ain't heard the story.

      That was a once of a couple lifetimes moment for sure!

      What a clown!

    • andyglean profile image

      Andy Little 4 years ago from Richardson, TX

      I'll instead always remember Jose Canseco as the guy that let a would be flyball bounce off of his head for a homerun.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
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      Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      kashmir56- They sure can't compare to Aaron, Ruth, Mays, or any of those guys...not with that use of juice! :)

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Wes i agree with you 100% and even though they have made tons of money they have cheated themselves and showed everyone that they didn't have what it took to play baseball the right way, they needed steroids to help them.

      Vote up and more !!! Sharing !

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
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      Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      YES SIR! There's a list...that would make a good article all itself - folks who played in the steroid era and didn't cheat! :)

    • Duncan Bates profile image

      Duncan Bates 4 years ago from Priceville, Alabama

      Wes I would also add Chipper Jones to guys who played baseball correctly and clean as far as we know anyway.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
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      Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      HELL YEAH BILLY! CHEERS for folks like Griffey, and the few others who played during those times without ever even being accused of cheating.

      Jim Thome is another one that comes to mind...huge guy, Albert Pujols too!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      No argument from me buddy! I will forever be grateful that I was able to watch some of the old-time greats before steroids entered the picture, and hooray for Ken Griffey Jr. for playing the game the way it was meant to be played.