Skip to content

A book about fathers and sons learning to love baseball after the steroids scandals? Hoo-boy.

Apr 4, 2012, 11:36 AM EDT


Via Baseball Think Factory, we learn of the existence of a new book about fathers, sons, baseball and … steroids:

Freelance writer Jim Gullo loves baseball and he wanted his son Joe to love it too. So, in the spring of 2007, he bought seven year old Joe a glove, a bat and a ball, and got him started collecting cards where they lived on Bainbridge Island near Seattle … Then in December, the Mitchell report named 89 players likely to have used steroids and other performance enhancing drug sand Joe’s questions changed:”It says that baseball players took drugs to make them better?” And, “Isn’t it cheating?”

Joe also wanted to know if the players who took drugs would be punished. But his dad didn’t have any answers — so the two went looking for them. The result is a physical and emotional journey that Jim chronicles in his new book, “Trading Manny: How a Father and Son Learned to Love Baseball Again.”

There’s an excerpt there if you’re curious.

As for the book:  Oof. Look, I’m a father of a six-year-old boy and I get the whole father-son thing pretty well. You want to bond over things and you want to answer your son’s difficult questions and you want them to always have hope that the world is a great place and that it doesn’t suck.

But I also know that if I was worried that professional athletes taking drugs would lead to either (a) my son’s loss of innocence; or (b) “an emotional journey,” I’d reassess the primacy of sports in our relationship.

People do dumb things. People cheat. Kids should know that. They should also know that athletes aren’t heroes or role models. And in my view, any parent who sets up a paradigm in which athletes either have to be role models or, when they don’t act like it, a serious soul searching is required, is making a mistake in their kids’ upbringing.

Yeah, I said it. Sorry if that pisses anyone off, but I’m pretty freaking adamant about the lunacy of having professional athletes-as-role-models. Parents and guardians and siblings and real people who face real everyday challenges are role models.

Even if my kids and I enjoy professional sports as a pastime, the participants — people who live a unique and privileged existence in which the decision to take drugs or not could mean millions — are not living any kind of life that holds lessons for my children.

  1. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 4, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    Athletes have always been painted as role models. That will never change. Sure, the emotional journey idea is pretty silly, but I grew up idolizing players, so have millions of other kids.

    • paperlions - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      I can honestly say that I do not remember every thinking of a single pro athlete as a role model growing up. I played soccer, football, and baseball….loved pro football, baseball, and hockey…and I never remember even considering modelling any of my behavior or moral choices after those of athletes. Even as a kid, I knew pro athletes were privileged men playing a game….a game I loved, yeah, but my interest in imitating their behavior pretty much began and ended with batting stances. Maybe I just had good parents.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 4, 2012 at 1:16 PM

        While I understand that it’s different strokes for different folks in regards to ever looking up to athletes, please do not insinuate how my parents raised me. Ever.

      • paperlions - Apr 4, 2012 at 1:25 PM

        Sorry Matt, I did not in any way mean to insinuate that….the reply was meant as a response to the general notion that athletes should be considered role models and not to your statement per se.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 4, 2012 at 1:39 PM

        No worries, thanks for the clarity. :)

  2. 18thstreet - Apr 4, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    I have a 12-year plan to help my children lose their sense of innocence and wonder. By the time of their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, they’ll be as cynical as I am.

    I sure hope that no world events happen between now and 2019 that interferes with the bubble I’m constructing.

    • snowbirdgothic - Apr 4, 2012 at 6:02 PM

      Mazel tov!

  3. cur68 - Apr 4, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    You know who my role model is? 24missed. Know why?
    She’ll make ya breakfast
    She’ll make ya toast
    She don’t use butter
    She don’t use cheese
    She don’t use jelly
    Or any of these
    She uses vaseline

    Otherwise, my opinion of this book, having read that excerpt, is that if you need athletes to role model your kids, then you might wanna reassess your parenting a bit. Toast, anyone?

    • bsbiz - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:34 PM

      When you blow your nose, do you use a magazine?

      • cur68 - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:53 PM

        Yep. Not my sleeve.

  4. Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Apr 4, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    How to enjoy baseball without letting writers ruin it for you: don’t read authors like Jim Gullo.

  5. umrguy42 - Apr 4, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    “Even if my kids and I enjoy professional sports as a pastime, the participants… are not living any kind of life that holds lessons for my children.”

    Oh, I don’t know about that entirely. I’d say there could be *plenty* of lessons there. They just may sometimes be about ways NOT to live / act / behave.

  6. sdelmonte - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    There are athletes who can be role models. But more for how they live or the obstacles they overcome. RA Dickey is an example, perhaps, but not because he throws a knuckleball.

    Even as a kid, I never really looked up to athletes. Maybe it helped that I came of age with the ’77 Yankees. There was so very little about the public image of that team than any kid would want to emulate, aside from winning.

  7. steviep23 - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Wow. Give it a rest already.

  8. Jonny 5 - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    It’s funny his 7 year old is soo concerned over the steroid scandal. Even though my 10 year old lives and breathes baseball he never has any concern over suspensions, drug allegations or any “personal” issue his favorite players may have. Although he did look a bit frightened when I broke the news that Howard AND Utley were DL’d to kick off the season. I had to explain the whole getting old thing to him. It’s funny, when you’re 10 you never think you’ll have the issues of mere mortals. IMO Pro athletes are on the end of the role model list. Many of them just suck at being good people.

    • paperlions - Apr 4, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      I thought the same thing. It sounds to me like he tried to ruin baseball for his kid, and then “unruin” it, so he could write a contrived, narrative-driven book.

      Eh, maybe I’m just jaded by all of these cheating cheaters cheating the game I used to love but now hate because of steroids.

  9. manifunk - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    Oh man, I hope this books propagates the “steroids = more dingers” myth which has no actual basis in science

    • metalhead65 - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:34 PM

      right,they took them just to look bigger and players who you never heard of that suddenly hit 50 or more overnight were just experiancing a normal power surge as they got older right? and barry bonds and sammy sosa suddenly went from 40 to 70 or more because they worked out so hard right? I do not need any scientific research to tell me what my eyes were seeing. nobody ever said they gave you the ability to hit them only the added strength to hit more and the guys I mentioned are proof positive of that. bury your head in the sand if you want but it is the truth.

    • thefalcon123 - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:59 PM

      “I hope this books propagates the “steroids = more dingers” myth which has no actual basis in science”

      Do I believe everyone who takes steroids will turn into a power hitter? NO
      Do I believe that steroids have the same effect on everyone? NO


      Do I think 36-year-old Barry Bonds would have hit 73 homer runs, or Sosa would have three 60 home run seasons without steroids: Absolutely not.
      (I think they both still would have been excellent players though)

      Many factors drove the explosion in offense in the 1990s and 2000s. Steroids were a huge part of that, and denying it is a pretty substantial bit of willful ignorance. I never understood the “no basis in science” thing. What science books are you reading? Steroids accelerate muscle growth, which, when exercised properly, vastly increase bat speed which would lead to more powerful swings. It’s not like players used ‘roids because they loved needles and were too timid for heroin.

      I’m not saying this as a anti-steroid crusader. I think Bonds, Sosa, Mcgwire, etc should all go to the hall. They played in an environment in which steroids were rampant and there is no real way to know who used, who didn’t, or how much effect steroids had on any individual player. But please don’t start claiming that steroids have no effect on athletic performance, because it’s a pretty insane claim to make.

      • paperlions - Apr 4, 2012 at 1:15 PM

        A lot of studies have been done looking for a “steroid use signal”. None can be found. Claiming that steroids had a substantial effect when one can not be found is at least as bad as wilfull ignorance, as it is fiction. The primary driver was changes in ball manufacturer and composition (unless you think every MLB player started taking steroids in the middle of 1993, when the new ball was introduced and HR rates increased greatly over-night). The second most important factor was a trend toward smaller ball parks.

        Global warming has probably had a bigger effect on HR rates than steroids. It might sound like a joke or hyperbole, but considering the effect on temperature on ball flight…it is most likely true, as the last 15 years have been warmer than it was during the previous 100 years of baseball.

      • thefalcon123 - Apr 4, 2012 at 1:45 PM

        “A lot of studies have been done looking for a “steroid use signal”. None can be found. Claiming that steroids had a substantial effect when one can not be found is at least as bad as wilfull ignorance, as it is fiction”

        You can’t be serious. Steroids have been repeatedly shown and used to increase muscle strength faster and easier than with regular routines. Just because there is not a direct 2 grams of steroids per home run ratio doesn’t mean drugs that greatly help increase muscle mass wouldn’t have a effect on performance. I’m not saying it has the same effect on everybody or that everyone used them in the same way. But the fact that the propagation of steroids use coincided with mass explosion in home run to historic levels is a pretty strong correlation.

        I don’t know how you can say with a straight face that global warming is a bigger effect on home runs than steroids. This is positively insane. An average increase in of perhaps 1 or 2 degrees over the course of a decade has more impact that drugs that have help muscles grow faster and stronger?* Take a step back. Take a deep breath. Re-read that statement and please, please tell me that is just a bit of hyperbole and you’re not that crazy.

        *(in baseball anyway. Obviously global warming was way huger global impacts less anyone here think I’m spouting oil industry propaganda. For god’s sake, I voted for Nader once).

      • paperlions - Apr 4, 2012 at 1:56 PM

        Yes, steroids do increase muscle mass, what they do not seem to do is allow guys to hit balls farther. The more derived a skill, the less direct influence raw strength has…especially when guys are doing dumb things like focusing on the upper body when the lower body, is more important to power. Hitting with power is more about a strong base, timing, torque, and bat speed than it is about strength per se.

        Go ahead and prove me wrong. Find a single study (a scientific investigation of the data, not lazy narrative) on power production in baseball that has been able to link it to PED use….I’ll wait.

      • thefalcon123 - Apr 4, 2012 at 2:24 PM

        “Go ahead and prove me wrong. Find a single study (a scientific investigation of the data, not lazy narrative) on power production in baseball that has been able to link it to PED use….I’ll wait”

        What a weak sauce argument. You’re denying the popular opinion and you want me to find a specific scientific study about steroids and home runs, like such a thing would exist in order to hold on to your argument? Really dude? Great, find me hardcore scientific study showing that global warming caused more home runs and we have a deal.

        Despite this weak argument, here’s some info about a study:

        Hmm…published in some rag called “Wired” with the study itself published in “American Journal of Physics”. Their conclusion: Steroids totally help you hit more home runs.


      • thefalcon123 - Apr 4, 2012 at 2:25 PM

        Just so you don’t have to click the link:

        “Roger Tobin, the study’s author, calculated that a ‘roided-out size increase in muscle mass (10 percent) would allow a hitter to strike a baseball about 5 percent faster. For you or me, the 4 percent increase in ball speed that our higher bat speed would allow us to generate wouldn’t mean much. Chavez is right, for guys who can’t hit, steroids don’t help. We’d still fly out to center. But for professional baseball players playing in parks that were designed with normal human biological strength constraints in mind, that extra 4 percent means an “increase home run production by anywhere from 50 percent to 100
        percent,” according to Tobin.”

    • Max Power - Apr 4, 2012 at 1:19 PM

      Does anybody know if it takes a position on the “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” Theorem, which is backed up by substantial empirical evidence?

  10. Chris Fiorentino - Apr 4, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    “Even if my kids and I enjoy professional sports as a pastime, the participants — people who live a unique and privileged existence in which the decision to take drugs or not could mean millions — are not living any kind of life that holds lessons for my children.”

    This statement shows some very serious naivete on your part, Craig. As a fellow father of a young boy(who is now 14) we don’t really get to choose who his role model is going to be. We can mold him…we can guide him…and we can try to push him toward ourselves, doctors, Mother Theresa, Ghandi, etc. However, when he sees Ryan Howard and, yes, Joe Blanton hit a home run IN PERSON at Citizen’s Bank Park, during Game 3 of the 2008 World Series, as a 10 year old, nothing and nobody is going to stop those two players from being Role Models to him. Nothing and nobody is going to tell him that he shouldn’t try to “Be Like Ryan” or “Be Like Joe”. It’s now a running joke that I say Blanton sucks and he says “2008…World Series…Game 3”

    So we can TRY as we might to say “Those guys are just ballplayers…they are not people to emulate in your everyday life” But it ain’t gonna happen. Young, impressionable kids spent the 90’s idolizing guys like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa…there wasn’t much a parent could do to talk their kids out of making those guys Role Models. They all end up cheaters and you seem to want to blame the parents for these kids having them as their role models? You mean a 16 year old who idolized Mark McGwire and saw he was taking Andro wouldn’t do the same thing that their idol did? Even if that same 16 year old’s father told him not to take Andro, do you honestly think he is going to listen to his father when his role model is hitting 70+ home runs? Come on man.

    Gatorade didn’t make a BAZILLION dollars off the slogan “Be Like Mike” for no reason. Michael Jordan was a role model. So was Tiger Woods. And there’s not much that most parents could do about their kids having those people as Role Models, even if they ended up not being the greatest role models in their private lives.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Apr 4, 2012 at 1:47 PM


  11. The Science Guy - Apr 4, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Good gosh, Craig. There is nothing wrong with a kid having a pro ball player for a role model. As a kid, I always looked up to Dale Murphy. But you know what? I thought Neil Armstrong was pretty cool too. And after the Challenger exploded in 1986, I remember thinking, “Who is this Richard Feynman guy explaining about the o-rings?” He became a role model to me, and still is to this day.

    People are people. Some make good role models and some don’t. No matter their occupation.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. D. Wright (2587)
  2. D. Span (2396)
  3. G. Stanton (2392)
  4. Y. Puig (2332)
  5. J. Fernandez (2283)