ADA — The baseball world was rocked by scandal last week when former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell released his report on steroid use and the influence of performance enhancing drugs in “America’s Game.” More than 80 current and former players — MVPs and All-Stars included — had their names made public in the report.

Reaction from several local residents deeply involved in the game ranged from surprise and alarm to disappointment and a certain level of confusion.

“It’s alarming, but most of it really wasn’t surprising to those of us who have dealt with this the past few years,” said Jerry Walker, Ada native and vice president of player development for the St. Louis Cardinals.

“I don’t think anyone was surprised that there were a number of players who apparently were involved in performance enhancing drugs. But what I hope people can see is that the instances outlined in the report were several years ago, and that we, in baseball, have been addressing the problem for the past four or five years in a manner that I hope can put this behind us quickly.”

Former Major League pitcher Don Kaiser, who also served for many years as Pontotoc County sheriff, struggled with words to express his disappointment over the steroid scandal.

“It’s terrible,” Kaiser said after hearing television broadcasts about Mitchell’s report. “It’s a terrible day for baseball. You’d have never heard about those kinds of things in my day, I can promise you that.”

Part of the problem, Kaiser said, is the temptation today’s players face because of the enormous financial possibilities in the Major League atmosphere.

Roff High School baseball coach Ead Simon agrees.

“I don’t want anyone to think that we should overlook or excuse steroid use, because we shouldn’t,” Simon said. “But I also think a lot of people in this country, faced with the opportunity to do what those players did in a sport where they stand to make tens of millions of dollars a year, would do the same thing.

“No, that doesn’t make it right, and I wish it hadn’t happened,” Simon said. “But I hope people will remember that baseball players are just people, and people make poor decisions.”

Longtime Latta baseball coach Eddie Collins said the release of Mitchell’s report might do nothing except lower the public’s already low opinion of today’s Major League players.

“I really don’t see how releasing all that information at this point is going to do any good,” Collins said. “It’s wrong, of course. But a lot of this is old news and I think the only real noticeable effect it’s going to have is to taint some of these players in the public opinion.”

Collins also noted the difference in many of today’s baseball stars as compared to those “stars of the past.”

“Today’s players, for the most part, aren’t the kind of people the old-time players like Henry Aaron were,” Collins said. “You think of people like Johnny Bench and Henry Aaron, and those were people who cared about their reputation and what people thought of them. They just didn’t treat the game, or the fans, like the players today do.”

Because of his current position in the Cardinals’ front office, Walker offered a unique perspective to the difficulty Major League Baseball has had the past few years in its attempt to address the steroid issue.

“There’s never been, as far as I know, a stronger union anywhere than the Major League Baseball Players Union,” Walker said. “It serves a good purpose for players, and I understand that. But, when we, as baseball officials, have attempted to deal with the doping issue the past 10 years, the union has put its foot down and not allowed us to make any headway.”

“Finally, when enough clean players got tired of being looked at negatively by the fans because of this issue, they came together and decided it was time to do something,” Walker said. “That’s when we started making some headway in the testing and the suspensions, and that’s why I think it’s unfortunate that this report comes out now — after we’ve finally made some progress in dealing with a problem we all knew was there.”

An examination of the report backs up the feeling of Walker and Collins in regard to the “outdated” nature of the information. Most of the instances of doping by players mentioned by Mitchell took place at least four or five years ago. Walker said it was unfortunate that the report was issued long after many player problems had already been dealt with.

The St. Louis Cardinal official, who has spent more than a half-century around Major League Baseball, also said he was trying to look at the report in a “positive light.”

“It is sad to see 80 or so names of current and former players from the past 10 years mentioned in regard to those kinds of activities,” Walker said. “But, as bad as that might be, I like to look at that report and think of the hundreds — the thousands — of names from the past 10 years that are NOT listed.”

Kaiser, who pitched for the Cubs, Tigers and the Milwaukee Braves during his career in the 1950s, said he hoped the current scandal wouldn’t do lasting damage to the game he loves so much.

“It makes me sick, seeing how a lot of the things are in baseball these days,” Kaiser said. “It’s a different world, but it’s still the same game. I just hope baseball can put this behind and move on and get back to the game America loves.”

This Week's Circulars