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Gilbert Mustin, Dubble Bubble Bubble Gum, and Fleer Baseball Cards

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Needless to say, the summer is the best time of the year. There’s no better feeling than completely forgetting about the rigors of college for three months and getting to enjoy doing whatever you want. While summer is great, it means different things to different people. Some people choose to spend their summers traveling the world, fishing, working, reading books, or watching Netflix in the comfort of their home. For me, after I finished up my internship at the Department of Recreation and Parks in the City of Los Angeles, I picked up a hobby I once spent all summer doing when I was a kid – collecting baseball cards.

As far as I know, I’m the only person at Swat that seriously partakes in the hobby (reach out to me sometime if you do too). As such, it never dawned on me that Swat could have any connection to the baseball card world. Apparently, I must have had too much free time over the summer, as any busy person would not have had time to Google this. I searched “Swarthmore baseball cards”, thinking that the athletics website would be the first listing. I found something unexpected. It turns out Swarthmore’s ties to the baseball card industry were closer than I could have imagined.

Frank Fleer founded the Fleer Corporation in Philadelphia in 1885 with the intention of manufacturing bubble gum. Fleer himself struggled to create a successful product. Blibber-Blubber was his first attempt, but the product never hit the shelves. Fleer died in 1921 and never got to see his company come to fruition. The next year, Gilbert Mustin, husband of Fleer’s daughter Alice Fleer, took over as head of the company. In the late 1920s, Mustin’s accountant Walter Diemer began experimenting with different formulas himself.

Diemer was an accountant, not a chemist. Thus, it is reported that he spent countless hours testing random formulas before finding success. He referred to his finding as an “accident.” The gum was named Dubble Bubble, the first ever bubble gum with a name that still stands today.  The only coloring available in the building at the time was pink, thus Diemer was forced to add a pink food coloring to his formula, which is why bubble gum is still pink today. Unlike Fleer, Diemer was able to successfully create a bubble gum that was blow-able, tasty, and easy to chew.

Although the corporation had already produced a set of trading cards in 1923, they began packaging the cards with sticks of Dubble Bubble bubble gum in 1938. Gilbert Mustin died in 1948. However, his sons, Frank and Gil Barclay Mustin Jr., were named treasurer and secretary. By 1959, Mustin Jr. had risen to the top of the company.

Frank and Gil Mustin Jr. have strong ties to Swarthmore College, with a classroom and professor positions named after them. Gil Mustin Jr. graduated from Swarthmore in 1942 and later came back to teach in the Engineering department. After college, he worked for DeLevall Corporation, a company building turbo superchargers for the Navy. Frank Mustin graduated from Swarthmore in 1944. Together, they are one of eighteen endowed chairs at Swarthmore, meaning that the Gil and Frank Mustin Professorships have been permanently endowed for positions across all departments.  

By the time Mustin Jr. inherited the company, the Fleer Corporation was competing with Topps in providing collectors with trading cards and chewing gum. Topps was signing players to exclusive contracts, preventing other companies such as Fleer from printing trading cards of those players. Fleer stole the idea and signed Hall of Famer Ted Williams, among others, to an exclusive contract.

The Federal Trade Commission felt that Topps had unfair control over the market and took it to court. It was ruled that Topps’ contracts, which allowed them to produce cards with players, were only valid when the trading cards were specifically sold in packs of gum. Thus, Fleer could produce trading cards of current baseball players but only with other items that weren’t gum. Instead of trying to sell their cards without gum, Fleer chose to sell their contracts to Topps in 1966. After years of legal fights, Fleer finally received authorization to print and sell baseball cards with gum for the 1981 season.

However, this was quickly reversed. By then, people weren’t buying the gum, they were buying the cards.  Topps and Fleer settled in 1982.

The 1980s could not have been a better time for Topps and Fleer to settle. The baseball card industry hit a huge boom in the 1980s as kids and adults alike couldn’t wait to collect their favorite teams and players. Under the guidance of Swarthmore grad Gil Mustin Jr., Fleer Trading Cards became one of the most successful trading cards businesses in the ’80s.

Unfortunately, trading card companies such as Fleer and Topps met high demand with equally high supply. With absurd demand for baseball cards in the ’80s, these companies produced millions of copies of each individual card. The exact print runs are unknown even to this day. What was once thought of as a better investment than stocks became virtually worthless. When the bubble popped, baseball cards from the late ’80s became absolutely worthless and are still worthless today. The late ’80s is known to card collectors as the Junk Wax Era.  

In the middle of the Junk Wax Era, Mustin Jr. sold his grandfather’s company in 1989 for around $70 million. Fleer Trading Cards was absorbed by Upper Deck Trading Cards in 2005. Its final set of cards was printed in 2007.

I began collecting baseball cards in 2007. Funnily enough, my first ever pack was a value pack of 2007 Fleer cards from Target. As a 10-year-old, little did I know that one day I would attend the same school as the man who put together that pack of cards.

Celebrating Our National Pastime’s Opening Day

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Although the Philadelphia Phillies did not get to start Opening Day with a home game on Monday, 12 other teams got to experience the joys of playing with a rowdy and passionate fan base behind them at home for the first day of baseball season. I know players at any level get those butterflies in their stomachs before the first games of their seasons. But not all of us get the pleasure of having thousands of fans on the edge of their seats, with same butterflies, cheering on their teams.

Opening Day is a two-part event with three games on Sunday and 12 on Monday, making for quite a baseball-packed weekend.  Each team will get to play 162 games in their regular season, so the outcome of this one game does not hold a lot of weight in season statistics. However, it is a great opportunity to revitalize the fanbase’s energy and an opportunity for some players to show that this is going to be their year to shine.

In a few shining moments of Sunday and Monday’s games, we got glimpses of greatness from the classic stars like Madison Bumgarner, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Clayton Kershaw. Bumgarner became the second pitcher in history to have multiple home runs on Opening Day. With 16 career home runs, Bumgarner is a player often talked about as a dual threat with pitching and hitting. Even though his batting average (.187) may sometimes fall flat in comparison to position players, among pitchers he still stands as an impressive hitter. Maybe this year he will make an even bigger name for himself.

Then, of course, Mike Trout had to remind us all that he is the best of the best. For some of us, myself included, we have to get the perfect pitch and then rotate into a mechanically stunning swing to even have a shot at a home run, but for others — namely Mike Trout — a mistaken swing can lead to a home run. I guess that’s just how it works when you’re exceptional. As not to be left out, Bryce Harper hit his fifth Opening Day home run, setting high expectations for the season for himself once again.

Opening Day had numerous other home runs and was a pretty packed sequence of  terrific baseball overall, but there was plenty of stellar pitching as well. Bumgarner was just about as good on the mound as he was at the plate, tossing 7 innings while striking out 11.  Another huge name in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, left Dodgers fans with a lot to be excited about this season. In his seventh consecutive Opening Day start, Kershaw came out after seven innings having only given up two hits. Not a bad way to start the season.

Of course, the big names and their successes are not all that matter about Opening Day. In fact, some of the ridiculous stats that are reported out are almost laughable. For instance, though Kershaw’s ERA on Opening Day games and Bumgarner’s record number of home runs for a pitcher on Opening Day are impressive feats, they are not that relevant to overall outcome of the season. However, the creation of arbitrary measures for Opening Day just proves the significance of the day for the league and all those baseball fans who were quite ready to move past spring training games.

As teams return to their hometowns, it is almost disappointing that there is not a bigger uproar over the day. I would be overjoyed to spend a day at the ballpark with friends and my favorite team (regrettably, the Phillies did not get a home opener) to relish in baseball’s return to center stage.

All being said, Opening Day 2017 had some amazing performances and plenty of enjoyment for those who attended. Baseball is the ultimate American pastime and hopefully more of us will pay attention to the triumphant return of teams to their home stadiums, while basking in the wonderful weather and interacting with the spirited fans. If you ever get the opportunity to go to an Opening Day, I highly recommend it for whatever team you support. But if you’re missing baseball in general, there are always some Phillies games right down the road!

World Baseball Classic Takes Center Stage

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This March, people around the world have been tuning into an exciting tournament full of great players, upsets, passionate fanhood, and superstar performances, as players from across the globe compete to be the best team in the world. I, of course, am talking about the World Baseball Classic (WBC). The premier international competition of baseball is often overlooked by a lot of the sports-watching public. However, this year’s competition, coming on the heels of a historic World Series that concluded with the most-watched baseball game in 25 years, has brought baseball back with a bang this spring.

The WBC matches up 16 teams in four pools that compete in South Korea, Japan, Mexico, and the United States. In order to qualify, teams must either finish in the top three in their pool at the previous WBC, which was held in 2013, or teams must win a qualifying tournament held prior to the start of the WBC. This allows newcomers to have access to the tournament while keeping around the traditional powers of international baseball. This year, Colombia and Israel made their first appearances in the tournament.

The MLB founded and heavily promotes the WBC with the goal of spreading baseball around the world, and this goal has shaped the rules of roster eligibility for national teams. Players can be a citizen, be eligible for a passport, be born within the borders, or simply have parental heritage in the nation that they play for. This allows nations that do not have a strong basis in baseball development to still field competitive rosters, with the goal of increasing interest in the sport within the nation’s borders. For example, the Netherlands’ roster is full of players from their Caribbean constituent nations, such as Aruba native and Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and Israel’s roster is full of Jewish-Americans like White Sox pitcher Brad Goldberg.

The first round of action brought some surprises. In Pool A, Israel was the surprise champion, going 3-0. The Netherlands followed behind, finishing 2-1, with their sole defeat coming to Israel. South Korea was eliminated, coming as a shock to the baseball world. They were the runner-up in the 2009 WBC, were the third ranked team in the world, and were playing all their games in the home nation. Chinese Taipei, the fourth ranked team in the world, lost all of their games and were eliminated as well.

Pool B was relatively devoid of surprises. Two-time champion Japan swept their pool, and former Olympic powerhouse Cuba finished behind them at 2-1. Newcomer Australia managed their first WBC win, and China went winless in the pool.

Pool C featured some exciting baseball and was a hard-fought opening round. The defending champion Dominican Republic went 3-0, but their pool victory did not come easily. They were down 5-0 against the United States in the sixth inning before rallying and winning 7-5. Against Colombia, they nearly lost on a walk-off, but outfielder Jose Bautista threw out Colombia runner Oscar Mercado at the plate as he tried to score on a flyout, sending the game into extra-innings. In extras, the Dominican Republic scored 7 runs in the 11th inning to seal their win and advance to the next round. Colombia also came close to defeating the United States, but the US pulled out a win with an Adam Jones walk-off single. The US advanced to the next round with a 2-1 record, and Canada was eliminated along with Colombia.

Pool D came down to a controversial finish. Puerto Rico was the unquestioned champion, sweeping the competition in a decisive manner. However, Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy all finished 1-2, so to decide which two teams advanced to a play-in game, a tiebreaker of runs allowed per inning played was used. Mexico believed that a win against Venezuela by more than one would be sufficient to advance; however, they were mistaken in the math calculating the tiebreaker. In their opening game against Italy, they failed to record any outs in the bottom of the ninth, and allowed five runs. They believed this counted as an inning played, but instead, it was scored as five runs scored without an additional inning completed. This pushed their runs per inning above Venezuela, and they were therefore eliminated. As a result, Adrian Gonzalez, one of Mexico’s best players, said that he would never play in another WBC. Venezuela and Italy played a tiebreaking game and Venezuela won, allowing them to advance.

In the second round, in Pool E, Japan and the Netherlands rolled through their competition, finishing 3-0 and 2-1, respectively. Israel’s Cinderella run ended, as they finished 1-2, and Cuba was also eliminated after losing all of their second-round games.

The other second round group, Pool F, was more closely competed. Puerto Rico was the champion, finishing 3-0, although not without close calls. Against the US, Puerto Rico held a three-run lead heading into the top of the ninth, but a two-out Brandon Crawford triple brought the US within one run. However, the US’s Josh Harrison struck out to end the game, sealing the win for Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico also ended the Dominican Republic’s eight game winning streak, which set up a decisive United States-Dominican Republic finale. The US, in, perhaps, their biggest win in international baseball history, shocked the star-studded Dominican Republic team 6-3, allowing them to advance to the semi-finals.

The semi-finals featured two thrilling contests. The first game, featuring Puerto Rico and the Netherlands, was an extra-innings classic that ended in a rather anti-climatic fashion due to the WBC extra innings rules, which start every inning after the 10th with runners on first and second base. Puerto Rico was able to execute small ball in the bottom half of the 11th, as they started the inning off with a sacrifice bunt, followed by an intentional walk, and ended with a walk-off sacrifice fly. The second game featuring the US and Japan was a battle against the elements, as both teams had to deal with the rare Los Angeles rainstorm. The US took advantage of the soggy conditions, and scored both of their runs as a result of the soaked field. Two runs were enough for the win, and the US was able to advance to their first WBC final.

The finale looks like it will live up to all of the hype the preceding games have brought. Right now, Vegas gives the slight edge to Puerto Rico, who seem to deserve it. Will Puerto Rico win one more game and complete a sweep of the whole WBC? Or will the US finally silence the critics and win their first title? We’ll see what happens on Wednesday night, but I think the US will be able to pull out the win and make their country proud.

After slow start, baseball bounces back strong

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After a slow start losing two doubleheaders to open up the season, the Baseball team bounced back over spring break in Fort Myers, Florida. The team flew south for their annual trip the first Saturday of spring break to escape the cold. After seven days of sunshine, the team returned with an overall record of 6-8, going 6-4 in Florida. Over 100 Division III baseball and softball teams from across the United States headed to Fort Myers to compete in the annual Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic. The tournament is a memorial for Cusic, a former Lee County Parks and Rec athletics manager and baseball fan. Established 26 years ago, the classic has expanded tremendously, originally having just 11 teams. Other Conference teams to attend this tournament included Gettysburg and Haverford.

The Garnet baseball team faced a packed schedule with 10 games in just six days. The trip began on an incredible high note with a walk-off win in extra innings in their first game on Sunday. Jared Gillen ’20 drove in the game winning run for the Garnet to defeat Rivier College in extra innings. The team lost a doubleheader on Monday to Defiance College and rallied to finish 4-2 in their next 6 games, defeating Hiram College, Rockford University, Baruch College and the United States Coast Guard Academy. One of the team’s losses was to Alvernia University who is currently ranked 23rd in the nation in Division III.

Other notable performances came from Conor Elliott ’19 and Cole Beeker ’20 at the plate, as well as Ryan Warm ’20 on the mound who, despite the loss, had a strong pitching performance against Alvernia. Elliot and Beeker lead the team with batting averages of .383 and .367 respectively.

Despite the busy schedule, the team was able to get some rest and relaxation during their spring break. Fort Myers is the spring training home of both the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins, offering a great opportunity to see some Major League Baseball. The team saw the Minnesota Twins defeat the Toronto Blue Jays before returning to Swarthmore on Friday to conclude their spring break trip.

Up next for the Garnet is a home doubleheader against Penn State Berks on March 18th after their game scheduled for March 14 against Eastern was canceled due to weather. Centennial Conference play will begin April 1 against Johns Hopkins University, who was picked to finish first in the conference coaches poll. The Garnet, who were picked to finish 10th in the same coaches poll, must make a strong conference play campaign to reach the Centennial Conference playoffs.

Baseball Eagerly Awaits Field Updates

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Following a 22-17-1 run last year, the Swarthmore Baseball Team sought to bolster certain aspects of the program for the bright future ahead. While bringing in a strong freshmen class still proved a priority for the program, it became clear that the outdated facilities would need work to keep up with the rapidly improving gameplay and influx of future recruits. This fall, the administration rewarded the team’s success and efforts, securing funding and beginning construction on key improvements to Clothier Field.

With the first home game currently scheduled for Mar. 18 versus powerhouse Penn St. Berks, construction has ramped up in hopes of finishing before the homestand. This first phase consists of upgrading a significant portion of the seating and technology around the ballpark, including a press box complete with improved broadcasting functionality. The second phase will continue throughout the season, as the Palmer, Pittinger, and Roberts (PPR) Halls undergo simultaneous construction, integrating the dormitory into the landscape of the outfield fence. The athletics department compared this state-of-the-art fence integration improvement as mimicking the likes of the right field fence at the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park, where fans have a close and intimate experience with the game before them.

Another important addition to the Swarthmore baseball program was assistant coach Dan Gusovsky, who came from William & Mary to lead the pitching staff and conduct recruiting process.

In an interview, he said “The renovations will enhance Clothier Field to an elite, unique facility, that we will proudly call home.”

In the meantime, the baseball team and fans will have to adapt to the ongoing construction beyond the left field and fence and around the ballpark. Most significantly, the left field fence now lies at a much shorter dimension, with a temporary telephone-pole fence separating the field from the construction.

The press box, named in honor of former legendary Swarthmore head baseball coach Ernie Prudente, the school record-holder for all-time wins as head coach with 216, will also be an adjustment for the team’s supporters and athletics staff. The press box will include brand new broadcasting equipment, which is particularly useful for the live online streaming of home games.

Our supporters will not only have an enhanced experience watching our games live, however, our supporters will be able to watch our games with higher resolution [online]… our program couldn’t be happier with the investment made by our administration that will bring everlasting recognition to a true Garnet great,” Gusovksy said.

However, this wait and accommodation will be worthwhile for the team in its long-term effects on the program. Citing a recent example of one of this year’s top-prospects leaving on account of inadequate baseball facilities, Gusovsky claimed, “The renovations will give us an edge in winning recruiting battles with competitor schools. The unique character of Clothier Field will separate our field on a national level.”

Nevertheless, the team understands the significant added responsibility and commitment the construction represents on behalf of the administration. As the season continues, the team will look to improve on last year’s foundation, with eyes set on the Centennial Conference Championship and beyond. Led by a seasoned senior class of outfielder Ryan Burnett ’17, infielder Wesley Fishburn ’17, and catcher Steven Matos-Torres ’17, the Garnet will kick off their 2017 season with back-to-back weekend doubleheaders on Feb. 25 and 26. This warm-up will be followed by the long-awaited Spring Break trip to Ft. Myers, FL with a 10-game road trip. All of this hard work seeks to jumpstart the team into peak form for the arrival of conference gameplay a few weeks later, with hopes of an eventual championship opportunity.

As Gusovsky would emphasize, “I believe that Swarthmore has doubled down on reasonable expectations for our baseball team’s home field, and I know that our players will continue their hard work on and off the field.”

The Garnet will continue to work hard and prove their value throughout the rest of the school year with hopes of winning a conference championship this upcoming May.

Baseball Primed to Do Big Things

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If one takes a walk into the fieldhouse these days, they’ll be greeted by the sounds of bats clinking and balls smacking against leather. That’s the Swarthmore College Baseball Team, hard at work as they prepare for their season. The Garnet team, coached by Matt Midkiff, is looking to rebound from a tough season which saw them finish with an overall record of 22-17-1, but a losing record in conference play of 6-11-1, earning them second to last in the Centennial Conference.

Last season saw the departure of key players Nate Booth ’16, Roy Walker ’16, and David Wolfson ’16. Booth pitched for the Garnet and posted a 2.06 ERA to go along with 35 strikeouts in 11 starts last year. Walker, the team’s right fielder, was the Garnet’s best hitter last season. He led the team with a .349 batting average and 36 RBIs while also playing stellar defense. Wolfson contributed 14 RBIs and 2 home runs, adding some power to the Garnet offense. The Garnet also lost Brian Gibbs ’17 who started 9 games as a pitcher, posting a 3.07 ERA while striking out 64.

Though the graduated seniors will be missed, the Garnet brought in a very large and strong recruiting class, including 18 freshmen who made the roster. The Garnet also return some key parts, most notably Wesley Fishburn ’17. Fishburn started all 35 games as a freshman in 2014, batting a solid .286 and contributing 12 RBIs. But his performance as a sophomore was truly a revelation for the Garnet. Fishburn batted .399 for the season and set a Swarthmore single-season record with 59 hits. He won the Centennial Conference Golden Glove Award, given to the best defensive player in the league and was also named to a number of all-star teams, including the All-Centennial Conference First Team and ABCA/Rawlings Mid-Atlantic All-Region second team. His junior season was not as spectacular but still impressive, finishing second on the team in batting average and RBIs. Fishburn, who tore his ACL in the final game of the 2016 season, is not yet at full health, but once he is, he will be a menace for opposing pitchers as he looks to cap off his exemplary career for the Garnet. Jaron Shrock ’18 returns as the backstop for the Garnet after a solid sophomore campaign cut short by injury. Charles Groppe ’19 also returns for the Garnet after his freshman season in which he posted a 3.33 ERA and struck out 36 in 8 starts and 12 total appearances. Griffin Kammerer ’18, a hard-throwing relief pitcher, looks to be effective this year as well.  

In an effort to be a step above the rest of the competition, the Garnet coaching staff has started holding 6 a.m. practices every Tuesday and Thursday. These practices primarily focus on conditioning drills and improving the fitness of the team. However, they also serve another purpose: to help with team-building and to give the team experience with adversity, something they will often face as they head into the thick of the season, playing four or five games each week and often two in one day.

Sawyer Lake ’20, a pitcher on the team, said, “We work hard and we’re proud of the fact that we’re training when everyone else is asleep. It’s been a great bonding experience, it’s something we all take part in. No matter the position, no matter the year, it’s the whole team putting in the effort to edge out our competitors.”

Hopefully for the Garnet, their 6 a.m. workouts will pay dividends. With the new training routine and the many new faces, the players have a lot to be excited about.

Fishburn said, “We’ve got some really talented freshmen and some upperclassmen who’ve worked really hard to take the next step, so I’m confident that we’ve got the talent to make a playoff push.”

Fishburn admits the team still has a lot of unknowns because of its youth but expects that many players, both freshmen and underclassmen alike, will step up and take important roles.

The players are also very excited to get back onto the new and improved diamond at Clothier Fields.

Outfielder Ryan Burnett ’17 said, “Our field has been undergoing a lot of renovations and we’re ready to get back out there, especially with the addition of our new press box and stadium seating that will allow everyone that comes out to a game to be more involved.”

Hopefully Garnet fans will come out in force this year to cheer on this Swarthmore squad that’s looking to strike big. The team plays their first game of the season on Feb. 25 at Arcadia University. After that, they’ll travel down to Fort Myers, Florida for spring break, playing in the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic. They’ll play 10 games total in this tournament against such schools as Hiram College and the United States Coast Guard Academy. Then, they play their home opener on Mar. 18 against Penn State Berks. Centennial Conference play starts on Apr. 1 with a doubleheader at Johns Hopkins, last year’s Centennial Conference champion.

The Garnet, with a plethora of youthful talent, look poised to fight for a top spot in the Centennial Conference this year and in years to come.

Cooperstown, Where Do We Draw the Line?

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While there are many individuals out there with a wealth of knowledge on every baseball player and statistic, even for us average Joes, the recent Hall of Fame controversy provides a philosophical discussion. The debate regarding which players are selected to join the Hall of Fame has evolved from a simple opinion of their talent into a moral conversation. Now the question of whether to let in suspected steroid users is a judgement call that all of us have the right to weigh in on.

Though we all have our opinions on who should make the Hall of Fame, ultimately a group of veteran baseball writers get to make the decisions. Veteran members of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America are baseball writers who have given ten years of service to the Association, and they have received the privilege to cast a vote for up to ten players every year. There was a total of 442 ballots cast this year. Players are placed on the ballot in several ways, most commonly by waiting at least five years after their official retirement from playing in the MLB. From the time that players are placed on the ballot, there are three different ways which they are removed from the ballot. The first and most exciting way for a player to get off the ballot is for that player to have over 75% of the electors vote for them. If they get 75% or more of the votes, then they are accepted into the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. If a player does not reach the 75% mark, they can remain on the ballot for up to ten years. If they are unsuccessful after their tenth year,they are removed from the running. They are also removed if they receive less than 5% of votes from the electors in any given year; also lose the chance to enter the Hall of Fame.  

This year, the hall of fame will welcome its three newest members: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez. Ivan Rodriguez was even a first-ballot Hall of Famer. However, the most contentious discussions have not surrounded Raines, Bagwell or Rodriguez; controversy has arisen over the players who were not elected. Barry Bonds, a name even the most clueless fans know, shot up in vote percentage to almost 54%. Arguably one of the best hitters in baseball, with countless MVP awards under his belt, he seems like a shoe in for the Hall of Fame. However, his career and successes are mired by the steroid era and the dark cloud of performance enhancing drugs that cast a shadow on his accomplishments. The same goes for other players such as Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, and Sammy Sosa. Though none of these players received enough votes, recent increases in voting for Bonds and Clemens may be an indication that the day is coming where steroid use will no longer keep “The Greats” from the Hall of Fame.

There are two major factors that explain why Bonds and Clemens have received an uptick in votes. First, a new wave of writers with a different perspective on integrity became eligible to vote and flushed out an older generation of writers who actually worked in the steroid era. Second, Bud Selig, the former commissioner who presided over the steroid era and is often accused of allowing this behavior, was elected to the Hall of Fame. Others, such as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicler, who have previously voted against all-stars with known PED use are now reconsidering.

Slusser said, “[It is] senseless to keep steroid users out when the enablers are in the Hall of Fame. I will now hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.”

The moral and philosophical debate regarding these recent Hall of Fame votes centers around three questions. First, should steroid users be allowed in the Hall of Fame? Second, if there are players in the Hall of Fame who most likely used, but never confessed or got caught, why do they have the right to be in when “The Greats,” such as Barry Bonds, have to be kept out? Lastly, what about those non-users who might take a hit in votes and not be able to get in.

Speaking about himself and Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds said, “The guys that are supposed to be there are supposed to be there. Period. I don’t even know how to say it. We are Hall of Famers. Why are we having these conversations about it? Why are we talking about a baseball era that has come and gone?” 

From Bonds’ viewpoint, no “perceptions” of PED use should be allowed to stand in the way of the selection of the obvious record breakers and Hall of Famers such as himself. It appears that baseball writers are on the verge of agreeing with his perspective.

Of course, there will always be writers that reject any players accused of steroid use on the principle of the stated guidelines for BBWAA voting which say that integrity should be a considered factor in the voting process. Time will only tell how integrity will be interpreted with relation to the Hall of Fame as this wave of suspected steroid users comes through the selection process.

 

Should club athletes qualify as Athlete of the Week?

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The process of selecting the Athlete of the Week at the Phoenix every week is fairly simple, but that may change. Typically, the athlete who performed the best or had the biggest positive impact in their team’s game will get the weekly spot in the Sports section. The section, however, may begin to feature both club and varsity athletes in the coming years. The change comes as a part of a larger campus discussion regarding the cooperation, valuation, and, at times, animosity between the two groups of campus athletes. In the discussion of changing the way we select Athlete of the Week, the question of club athletes’ qualifications for selection as Athlete of the Week has arisen.

     Club sports play an important role in the lives of many students at the college. Between volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and rugby, some of the more prominent club sports on campus, non-varsity student-athletes have the opportunity to competitively participate in various athletic events. There are currently seven chartered clubs including Fencing, Men and Women’s Rugby, Men and Women’s Ultimate Frisbee, Men’s Volleyball, and Men’s Badminton. These clubs are highly organized and have clearly defined policies specific to club sports teams that they must follow. Like all students, members of club sports teams must also comply with policies set out by the college, including sexual assault and harassment, misconduct, safety, and hazing policies. Club athletes can face disciplinary action if they don’t adhere to these policies. The implementation of these policies suggests that club athletes are held to a particular behavioral standard as they are representatives of the school.

     Club sports are also held to standards of organization, similarly to varsity sports. Club captains are required to submit rosters, have their players sign an assumption of risk form, verify that the team has team insurance, and ensure that the team is authorized to travel. Most importantly, captains are required to develop and establish an attendance policy. Attendance policies are important in club sports, too, because club athletes can receive PE credit, which is a requirement for graduation, similar to varsity athletes.

     Because club athletes can receive PE credit, their activities are officially recognized by the school as competitive athletic events that contribute to a student’s learning in the same way varsity athletic events do. In order for a club sports to be eligible for PE credit, they must follow certain criteria. Club sports are required to hold at least three practices a week while they are in season, must have a committed coach or supervisor, and must keep attendance, as mentioned before. Club sports are classified as a chartered student organization, and thus receive funding from the Student Budget Committee. In the event that funding does not completely cover total costs, teams are allowed to fundraise on campus with approval of the athletic department although varsity teams also have the opportunity to raise funds through on-campus events.

     Much like varsity sports, club sports play a competitive schedule. Almost every club team played an away game last year, and every team could have qualified for their respective postseason, given they earned a good enough record. Teams are required to attend their scheduled games, or they run the risk of forfeiting.

     The competition creates rivalries. Last week, the Women’s Rugby team edged out Ursinus for the first time in five years. The long-standing rivalry between Swarthmore and Ursinus illustrates the competitiveness of many club sports on campus. Tim Greco ’19, a member of the Men’s Rugby team, spoke to the competitive edge not only present but required for competing in club sports.

     “The people on the team care about their performance very much. If you don’t care about doing well, you won’t be out there to begin with risking yourself getting hurt. There’s definitely a competitive spirit, on the same plane as varsity athletics,” said Greco. Greco also mentioned how club athletes represent the college, bearing the signature Swarthmore “S” on equipment and jerseys. He said, “We are still representing the college. It does not matter if it is through an official sport or through a club sport. We are still representing Swarthmore. Not only how well we do, but our level of sportsmanship reflects back on Swarthmore.” Some argue that many club teams are just as committed and dedicated to their sport as varsity teams.

     Rose Ridder ’19, a member of the Women’s Rugby team and former swimmer, spoke along these lines saying, “Some club sports are more hardcore than others, but some are definitely not hardcore. Some varsity sports are more hardcore than other, but some are definitely not hardcore.”

     Ethan Chapman ’19, a member of Men’s Ultimate Frisbee, approaches the question from a different perspective, saying, “The commitment level is higher [as a varsity athlete], but you’re bound to it. If you’re playing frisbee, and you’re committed that much to your team, the same level as a varsity player, that says a lot about you,” he said. “You’re not bound to that. Everyday, you have the option to not go, and nothing will happen. But if you choose to keep going, that just says so much about your dedication.”

     Chapman expanded on his statement when he said, “When a varsity athlete is on a team and is having a bad day, they are still forced to go to their practice. In club sports, if you’re doing it just for fun, and you’re having a bad day, you don’t need to go. But if you have that commitment, and you go on your own, again that just says so much.”

     On the other hand, many varsity athletes feel the current method for selecting Athlete of the Week, and for covering Garnet sports in general, should go unchanged. The argument, most often, was that only varsity athletes should be selected because they are more committed to their sport.

     Varsity athletes are, in general, not allowed to miss any practices except for emergencies, class conflict, or injury. By-and-large, coaches hold each individual athlete accountable for missing any type of team practice or lift, often requiring each player to make up the practice or lift on their own time. In some cases, athletes get sent back to their dorms for being late to a lift or practice without a proper excuse.

     “Some varsity athletes compete every single day for as many as three to fours hours, taking up a lot of your time. Varsity is official, people work really, really, really hard. Club seems to be more of a fun thing,” shared Chris Chan’ 17, a member of the Track and Field team.

     An anonymous player on the Softball team shared similar sentiments, explaining that she felt that varsity sports are more intensive than club sports.

     “They [club athletes] don’t put in as much time as we do, and don’t have official coaches. In general, they don’t get recruited or have to worry about getting cut.” She continued, explaining that she perceives club sports as less standardized and, therefore, less competitive.

     “They [club athletes] don’t have statistics or a league to be compared with. What would you be measuring them against? No one knows how good their competition is.”

     The majority of varsity athletes get recruited to play at the college; however, club athletes typically do not. Being recruited to play a sport in college is a slow and painful process. Most college coaches go to recruiting events that host hundreds of players, only being able to get a short glimpse at each of them. Many times, they go to recruiting events already knowing which players they want to take a look at. Other times, they rely on recommendations from travel coaches to build their recruiting classes. Some varsity athletes made the life-changing decision to attend one college over another solely because one college offered the opportunity to play on a varsity team.

     Of course, there is always the uncertainty of not being accepted into a certain college even after being offered a roster spot, which can make finding a school to play at even more difficult. Jackson Roberts ’19, a member of the Baseball team, recalls a situation in high school where he made plans to originally commit to another college.

     “I had made up my mind about playing and studying at [undisclosed college]. I had it taken away from me when I didn’t get in. I knew the baseball coach really wanted me, so I assumed I’d get in. I thought it was the best situation for me,” he said. In the end, the circumstances changed, creating undue challenges for Roberts.

     “I was forced to find alternative plans. Varsity athletes face and think about these things first. I don’t think club athletes think about that first. I think they choose a school based on academics, then reached out to club athletics after.”

     Another difference between club athletes and varsity athletes, many believe, is that varsity athletes are held to a different behavioral standard. Many varsity athletes can recall the traditional speech given by coaches before every weekend, which includes reminding ever player that, although they may be members of other groups, they are identified as a member of their team first. Many people identify well-known varsity athletes as varsity athletes first. Although club athletes still represent Swarthmore, they are not always identified as club athletes first. This distinction socially separates them from club athletes.

     All of this being said, the conversation will likely continue, as the athletic department and campus attitudes towards athletics shift and change.

 

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