"I make fun of him all the time," Dee Dee says. "It's like he's as pure a guy as you could possibly get."
And that's why she really wants people to believe in her husband. Like she believes in him. Last year, Pujols won the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given to the major league player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball." Clemente, of course, died in a plane crash in 1972 while bringing supplies to earthquake-torn Nicaragua. Pujols, a two-time National League MVP, says it is the most meaningful award he has ever won, and in his speech he said that if he could ask one question of the great Clemente, it would not be about his brilliant arm, or how he paved the way for Latin American players, or even about his prodigious hitting. No, Pujols said, his one question would be, "Why did you go?"
And Pujols said, "I think I know the answer. He felt a responsibility. I feel that responsibility too."
Together, through the Pujols Family Foundation, Albert and Dee Dee have worked to raise money and the spirits of people with Down syndrome. Together, they have brought eye doctors and dentists and beds to villages in the Dominican Republic—Dee Dee remembers presenting beds to a mother of five who had been sleeping on straw and filth, and the tears in the woman's eyes because she had never been given something new. She remembers the tears in Albert's eyes too.
"If he ever got involved in that [steroid] stuff, I would be the first one to kill him," Dee Dee says suddenly.
She would not be the only one to be brokenhearted. Albert Pujols knows this. It is why he felt so betrayed when a local television station sent a crew to his St. Louis restaurant to follow up on the charge that Pujols was named in baseball's Mitchell Report, the findings of a 20-month-long investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport. Pujols's name was, in fact, not in the report. "They tried to ruin my image," he says.
He has constantly denied using steroids. His reasoning has stayed consistent: "I fear God too much to do any stupid thing like that." He also knows that more or less every player has denied using steroids. "We are under a dark cloud," he says. "Nobody believes anything [players say]."
And that takes us all the way back to the point: Albert Pujols knows that people, many people, do not believe him. He knows that some bloggers out there simply assume that he has been using—if you Google "Albert Pujols" and "steroids" you will get about 100,000 hits—and he knows that talk-radio hosts have spent time breaking down his 6'3", 230-pound physique. He knows that by putting up good numbers, he gives many people all the evidence they need.
So how can you be a baseball hero in 2009?
"You know how I want people to remember me?" Pujols asks. "I don't want to be remembered as the best baseball player ever. I want to be remembered as a great guy who loved the Lord, loved to serve the community and who gave back. That's the guy I want to be remembered as when I'm done wearing this uniform. That's from the bottom of my heart."