Up to Bat: Gary Sheffield on Short Tempers, Steroids

Gary Sheffield #3 of the Detroit Tigers stands at the plate during a Spring Training game against th

Gary Sheffield of the Detroit Tigers stands at the plate during a spring training game against the Cleveland Indians in Lakeland, Fla., on March 3, 2007. Sheffield is the author of a new autobiography, Inside Power. Rick Stewart/Getty Images Sports hide caption

itoggle caption Rick Stewart/Getty Images Sports

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Detroit Tigers fan and NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea asks Gary Sheffield about "the wiggle."

On Monday, when the American League Champion Detroit Tigers open their 2007 season, a powerful new batter will be in the lineup. Gary Sheffield is starting his 20th Major League Baseball season, with his seventh club.

Sheffield is a great player who bears the reputation of a malcontent. In his new book, Inside Power, Sheffield says he doesn't deserve that label.

But he does recount an event when he was 12 years old that illustrates where he got a reputation for a fiery temper.

The year before, his Little League team had gone to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn., and lost to Taiwan. Sheffield would have returned the next year, but he was thrown off the team instead — for brandishing a bat at the coach.

Sheffield tells Robert Siegel that the incident "drove him for the rest of his life."

"I have a lot of fire burning within me, but I do it with control," Sheffield says, referring to his 20-year baseball career.

Sheffield, who trained with controversial player Barry Bonds, denies allegations in the book Game of Shadows, by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, that he paid $10,000 for steroid cream.

"If you show me where I paid $10,000, then I'll show you a magic trick," Sheffield says.

"Only thing I paid for is to let someone train me. You talk about paying for cream or something else, you got the wrong guy," he says.

Excerpt: 'Inside Power'

Cover of 'Inside Power'

Rage Over 'Roids

Barry was still furious that I'd left his personal training camp. He told BALCO to send me a bill for the vitamins. No problem. DeLeon wrote them a check for about four hundred dollars.

That check linked me to BALCO.

Later some people claimed the cream contained steroids. I don't know if it did.

I had no interest in steroids. I didn't need them, and I didn't want them.

I never wanted them. From the get-go, I've frequently mouthed off about their negative impact on the game.

I knew what was happening. Everyone did.

The 1994 players' strike had made fans angry. The World Series was canceled. After that, attendance was down. But when McGwire started the home run mania, attendance came back. The owners understood that the sudden spike in homers wasn't accidental. All baseball knew it. But baseball is run on money, and home runs meant money. Baseball turned a blind eye.

I didn't.

I was accurately quoted as saying that we were giving the public a false picture of the game. I asked the Commissioner to investigate. He paid no attention to me. I complained that players were banging home runs in August and September like it was April and May. They were showing no fatigue. Something wasn't right.

My dad's a bodybuilder. My whole life I've been taught to train the hard way. I believe in earning strength, not buying it. My grandfather raised me old school: In baseball, you work for whatever you get.

I've never touched a strength-building steroid in my life — and never will. The proof is in the pictures and my stats.

Look at pictures of my body before I trained with Bonds and after. There's no difference. I look the same. I am the same. If you compare my numbers before I trained with Bonds and after, there's no spike. If anything, there's a drop-off.

In 2001 with the Dodgers — the year before I trained with Bonds — I hit thirty-six home runs with a slugging percentage of .583. In 2002 with the Braves — the year after I trained with Bonds — I hit twenty-five home runs with a slugging percentage of .512. My single biggest home run year was back in 2000 when I connected for forty-three. After 2003, I enjoyed another three years of hitting thirty homers or more. But I've never again hit forty in a single season.

When I was subpoenaed to testify about steroids before a grand jury, I was in and out of there in ten minutes.

I got right to the point.

"I applied this cream to my knees," I told them. "I didn't know it was steroids. Whatever it was, it didn't make me stronger."

I didn't testify against players because I've never seen another player take steroids. I knew players did — everyone knew it — but I had no firsthand knowledge.

Over the years, I kept voicing my opinion to anyone who'd listen:

"This isn't an easy game. Just ask Michael Jordan. Hitting a baseball might be the hardest thing in sports. I've been training hard my whole life. My whole life I've been driven to be a winner.So I want a level playing field. I don't want anyone having an unfair advantage over me. I don't cheat, and I don't want anyone else cheating."

End of story.

From Inside Power by Gary Sheffield and David Ritz. Copyright (c) 2007. Available from Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

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