On April 8, 1991, Jeff Bagwell dug into a Major League Baseball’s batter’s box for the first time. He would end the night 0-for-3 with a walk in a 6-2 loss to the Reds.
We mention this historic milestone not to necessarily mark the occasion – though it’s certainly worthy of being marked – but to contextualize what has, at least in part, kept Bagwell out of the baseball Hall of Fame.
April 8, 1991 was a long time ago; twenty-five years to be exact.
When Bagwell made his debut on April 8, 1991, there were just three Star Wars movies. Will Smith was still a Fresh Prince. And we didn’t yet know what teen spirit smelled like. Heck, Carlos Correa, Sr. was still a year away from asking Sandybel if she wanted to start a family.
And while those and roughly a trillion other significant markers have fallen by the wayside, the number of substantiated accusations linking Bagwell to performance enhancing drug use remains exactly the same today as it did twenty-five years ago: zero.
It’s certainly not for lack of looking as baseball has essentially spent the past two decades turning itself inside out in order to remove the stain of PEDs. Despite that, Bagwell was not mentioned in Jose Canseco’s tell-all book about PED use in baseball. Bagwell was not mentioned in the Mitchell Report, the BALCO investigation or the Biogenesis investigation. No finger has been pointed his way, not by a teammate, an opponent, a team employee; no trainers, no workout partners. His name has not leaked, rumor, or otherwise, in connection to baseball’s steroid testing in 2003. The man has not only been divorced twice, he’s been involved in another couple’s high-profile, scandal-riddled divorce that actually included legitimate drug use allegations… and even then, when character assassination and reputation-smearing reigned, nothing was mentioned about Jeff Bagwell using performance enhancing drugs.
And yet… and yet – there are baseball writers with Hall of Fame votes who continue to this very day that Jeff Bagwell is guilty of using PEDs. Here was Dan Shaughnessy’s rationale late last year when he did not vote for Bagwell:
I’m still holding the line on guys who cheated and guys who look as if they were dirty. It takes out Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Gary Sheffield, Mike Piazza, and Jeff Bagwell.
To add some perspective: in Shaughnessy’s home state of Massachusetts, the statute of limitations on robbery, intent to rob or murder with dangerous weapon is ten years. But making baseless accusations untethered from reality apparently has no limit.
April 8, 1991 was twenty-five years ago. And while a lot has changed, some things, unfortunately, have not.