Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).
So here’s a quick quiz for all of the baseball fans out there: Which of the following players have taken performance-enhancing drugs?
a. Barry Bonds
c. Henry Aaron
The answer might surprise you: all of them. You surely guessed Mr. Bonds, who used steroids during his pursuit of Aaron’s home-run record. And everyone knows about Mr. Rodriguez, who has admitted that he took steroids earlier in his career. Rodriguez was suspended on Monday for the rest of this season – and all of the next one – for allegedly taking PEDs again. Rodriguez appealed the suspension, which will allow him to play until an arbitrator rules on his case.
But you probably left out Hank Aaron, who surpassed Babe Ruth’s own home run total. In 1968, mired in a prolonged slump, he took an amphetamine that a teammate gave him. “When that thing took hold, I thought I was having a heart attack,” Aaron wrote in his autobiography. “It was a stupid thing to do.”
Let’s leave aside the question of whether amphetamines can actually improve performance on the field, or whether they’re as dangerous as steroids. Aaron believed that the drug would give him an edge, so he took it....