MAJOR-LEAGUE BASEBALL still lives in the twilight zone. Or, perhaps, the 1900s. A period when the "sins" surrounding the heroes of the diamond were wine, women and song.
When this Ol' Columnist exposed professional wrestling as a mire of steroids and pill-poppers in a documentary entitled "Counterfeit Hero," it wasn't surprising. After all what normal behaviour could boost a mild-mannered grappler into a mountain of exaggerated muscle, seemingly overnight?
However, the veneer shielding America's national pasttime was still intact.
That was until 2003 when Jason Giambi admitted before a federal grand jury that he had, indeed, taken steroids and human growth hormone in the BALCO investigation.
However, four years later, Giambi, the New York Yankees' designated hitter, has been reluctant to come forward and "spill the beans," before steroids investigator George Mitchell. He's been given a Thursday deadline to do so or be whacked over the knuckles by baseball commish Bud Selig.
But such a possibility for any ultra-severe disciplinary action is about a remote as yours truly hitting a grand slam against the likes of Curt Schilling. Slim and none and Slim just got out of town.
When researching the latest episode in the steroids fiasco, I went back to files from April 14, 1977 to a much more innocent times in which the headline read: A very civilized game.
Baseball is the only civilized game in the universe.
During what other game could you read a newspaper and follow the action on the field at the same time?
Baseball doesn't even have the harsh terminology used in football. You can curl your tongue around baseball terms. In football you can spit them out.
In baseball, you play in a park, not a battlefield.
Baseball is played on a diamond, not on a gridiron.
Even the players' positions have a genteel ring. A pitcher. A catcher. A first, second and third baseman. A shortstop (is he really that short?). A left, a right, and a centre fielder?
In football, it's a guard, a tackle (oomph!), linebackers (ouch), defensive backs, safeties, halfbacks and a quarterback, also commonly known as a FIELD GENERAL.
In football, there's always a game plan, strategy, on the attack, on the defence. It's the bomb, the blitz, the red dog, the hit men. And they buried him.
In baseball, it's the nice play. Around the horn. A little bingo. The squeeze play. And, of course, a favourite -- the pop fly.
Baseball players wear caps and gloves. Football players wear helmets and face guards, shoulder and hip pads.
Baseball players never lose their teeth. Football players always do. It's their mark of honour.
In baseball, the ball, which is always seen, is white -- bridal white.
In football, it's a menacing brown and ALWAYS hidden.
In football, it's a fight for inches. In baseball, it's a game of yards.
In baseball, it's called a pasture. In football, it's the END zone.
And the teams' names.
In football, it's the Eagles, the Bears, the Lions, the Broncos, the Cowboys, the Rams, the Bombers, the Roughriders.
In baseball, it's the Orioles, the Red Sox, the Cardinals, the Blue Jays. Chirp. Chirp.
As I said that was written some 30 years with contributions from George Carlin and the late Jim Murray, and so much has changed concerning baseball.
It truly has become diamonds in the rough with the steroids controversy and now major-league brawls.
Just Monday, Cubs' first baseman Derrek Lee and San Diego pitcher Chris Young were suspended for flying fists.
And a week or more ago, two Chicago teammates, Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett, scuffled in the dugout.
Now, disillusionment has set in. So, please, don't take me out to the Brawl Game.
FAMILIAR NAMES: R.J. Lechmere Guppy. A clergyman living in Trinidad. He send several species of tropical fish to the British Museum, including a tiny specimen that now bears his name ... Tom Collins. A 19th-century English bartender at Limmer's Old House in London.