Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne told SI last week that he strongly disapproves of the use of anabolic steroids by athletes but admitted that suspiciously substantial weight and strength gains made by about a third of Nebraska's players in 1984 had led him to institute steroid testing that year. Osborne recalled that one of the players named by Fitton "was a little antsy about the testing," but he expressed surprise when told of Fitton's assertion that on the eve of the 1984 Orange Bowl Fitton had received a "frantic call" for steroids from the same player. Fitton claimed he sent the player, by Federal Express, about a dozen tablets ("enough for four people") of methyl testosterone, a fast-acting oral anabolic said to increase aggressiveness. "If I had known that," said Osborne, "I would have busted [any players involved] on the spot." Sadly, Fit-ton claimed that Nebraska's involvement with steroids was no greater than that of many other schools. "Anabolics are going to be taken," said Fitton bluntly. "It's a fact of life."
They're rearing some tough young hockey players in Minnesota. Or so suggests Dr. Paul Belvedere, team dentist for the NHL North Stars. "Pro players now want to get their teeth fixed," says Belvedere, "but I get 12-year-old patients all the time who beg their mothers to leave their teeth broken. They think it will scare the players on the other team."
ROGER MARIS: 1934-1985
Roger Maris, who died last Saturday of cancer at the age of 51 (two years younger than Babe Ruth when he died), was probably the most misunderstood and least appreciated of American sports heroes. In 1961, in the face of tremendous pressure, Maris surpassed Ruth's near-legendary record of 60 home runs in one season, yet received more vilification than praise. A country boy from North Dakota who was more interested in family and friends and doing his job than in fame, Maris had no talent for the give-and-take of public relations, the dissembling answer, the white lie. He spoke bluntly, antagonizing many in the army of reporters that besieged him as he moved inexorably toward Ruth's record. More than a few wrote disparagingly of him.
To traditionalists, Ruth's 34-year-old mark was sacrosanct. Many considered Maris, a .258 hitter before 1961, the wrong man to challenge it. They preferred his Yankee teammate Mickey Mantle, a proven star. With Maris and Mantle both closing in on 60 homers, commissioner Ford Frick, an old friend of Ruth's, ruled that if the record was broken after the 154th game (the AL season had just been expanded from 154 games to 162), two marks would be listed: one for a 154-game season and one for a 162-game season. The latter carries, at least in spirit, an asterisk.
Illness and injury took Mantle out of the race, but Maris kept going. In the 154th game he hit his 59th homer, as well as a fly ball caught near the rightfield fence. The next day's papers read MARIS FAILS. He hit two more homers in the games still remaining, No. 61 coming off Boston's Tracy Stallard in the season's last game. Yet Maris continued to be criticized. Rogers Hornsby, another great hitter of the Ruth era, dismissed him as a "bush-leaguer."
Maris was traded to St. Louis in 1966 and retired in 1968 at 34, primarily because of a chronic hand injury that impaired his swing. He was on seven pennant winners in his 12 seasons and won two MVP awards. His contemporaries remember him as an all-around star who could field, throw, slide and bunt with the best of them; a popular, well-liked team player who did a lot more on the ball field than just hit home runs.
Despite the criticism he endured, Maris had vindication at the end. Reports of his death mentioned the "asterisk" controversy but, in identifying Maris, called him simply the man who broke Babe Ruth's record. And that, asterisk or no asterisk, is how he'll be remembered.
—ROBERT W. CREAMER