Playing with numbers is baseball's No. 1 problem

April 13, 2006
Randy Roberts
Randy Roberts

While Barry Bonds pursues baseball's home run record, a cloud of steroid accusations has settled over the national pastime, says a Purdue University sports history expert.

"There is no game that is more obsessed with numbers, and in baseball there is no number bigger than the count for home runs," says Randy Roberts, professor of history. "The sport will never change from wood bats to hitter-friendly aluminum bats because a switch would probably dramatically inflate batters' number of hits and home runs.

"Steroids also undermine numbers, and doing so undermines the game."

Roberts says only once before in baseball's history has the game been so tarnished. In 1919, many of the Chicago White Sox players were accused of throwing World Series games for gambling purposes. Those players were banned for life. As a result Major League Baseball installed its first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, he says.

Now, baseball has appointed former U.S. Senate majority leader George Mitchell to investigate steroids in baseball. Bonds will be a focus, and the final report will be made public.

Roberts is a regular guest on the History Channel's "Reel To Real," which shows a movie based on a historical event and a related documentary. He also has appeared on shows for PBS, ESPN, HBO, CBS, NBC and ETV.

Last year, Roberts appeared in a Ken Burns documentary, "Unforgivable Blackness," on boxer Jack Johnson. Roberts also is author or editor of "The Rock, the Curse and the Hub: A Random History of Boston Sports," "Pittsburgh Sports: Stories from the Steel City," "John Wayne: American," "Heavy Justice: The State of Indiana v. Michael G. Tyson" and "Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam 1945 to 1990."

Source: Purdue University, by Amy Patterson Neubert

Explore further: Game on: Sports Analytics Conference produces a growing avalanche of quantitative research

Related Stories

FX says overnight ratings becoming meaningless

July 24, 2014

(AP)—It's a rite nearly as old as television: the morning after a new show premieres, network executives wait impatiently for the Nielsen company's estimate of how many people watched, and rush to report the first sign ...

Red Hat's red-hot shares climb to 12-year high

March 29, 2012

(AP) -- Red Hat is red hot. The software maker's shares soared nearly 20 percent Thursday to a 12-year high, as investors reacted to an earnings report that showed how much Red Hat is benefiting from a shift in the way that ...

Recommended for you

Study finds 'rudimentary' empathy in macaques

December 1, 2015

(—A pair of researchers with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Lyon, in France has conducted a study that has shown that macaques have at least some degree of empathy towards their fellow ...

Scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle

December 1, 2015

Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have engineered changes to the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system that significantly cut down on "off-target" ...

Quantum dots used to convert infrared light to visible light

December 1, 2015

(—A team of researchers at MIT has succeeded in creating a double film coating that is able to convert infrared light at modest intensities into visible light. In their paper published in the journal Nature Photonics, ...

Xbox gaming technology may improve X-ray precision

December 1, 2015

With the aim of producing high-quality X-rays with minimal radiation exposure, particularly in children, researchers have developed a new approach to imaging patients. Surprisingly, the new technology isn't a high-tech, high-dollar ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.