Thursday, March 31, 2005

Robert Dvorchak: Law, Friend Remember Losing String

Former Pirates Law, Friend know what it's like to endure long string of losing
Thursday, March 31, 2005
By Robert Dvorchak', Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

2005 Baseball Preview Index

Ah, spring, the season of reawakening and reverie and renewal, the sunnier days of promise and potential and possibility. And for the hopelessly optimistic, an oxymoron if ever there was one, it's time for the Pirates.
Las Vegas oddsmakers rate the ballclub, burdened with the baggage of 12 consecutive losing seasons, as a 200-to-1 shot to win it all with the over/under on wins at 72. In short, the oddsmakers give them a snowball's chance in a blast furnace.

Losing is a risk taken by any competitor. But in this day and age, being branded a loser is the worst possible social put-down.
Lose a game and it hurts -- and can it be 12 years since Francisco Cabrerra plunged a dagger into Pittsburgh's baseball hearts? Lose a string of games and it becomes a rut. Lose for a dozen years and the rut deepens into a grave.

The 119-year-old Pirates franchise has never before suffered such a run of futility.
This slide has encompassed two ownership groups, two ballparks, three general managers, three managers, any number of rebuilding plans and a revolving door of players. They haven't even managed a winning record at home at PNC Park, which opened under the promise of a renaissance the day Willie Stargell died.

As in all things baseball, the past serves as a reference point. A half-century ago, the Rickey dinks -- named after general manager Branch Rickey -- lost more games than they won each year for nine consecutive seasons between 1949 and 1957.
That woeful era included a run of three consecutive 100-loss seasons, starting in 1952. That team lost 112 times in 154 games and is listed as the sixth-worst team of all-time, according to the computer rankings of Harry Hollingsworth, a sports statistician from Akron, Ohio.
Of that 1952 edition, manager Billy Meyer once said: "You clowns can go on 'What's My Line' in full uniform and stump the panel."

One member of that cast was catcher Joe Garagiola, who launched a second career as a broadcaster and TV personality who found comic relief in losing in the mold of Brutus Thornapple, Charlie Brown and Rodney Dangerfield.
"We gave the fans their money's worth. They always saw the bottom of the ninth," Garagiola said.
"We'd be a couple of runs behind before they finished playing the National Anthem. ... Opposing pitchers would get into fistfights over who was going to start against us. ... People would get up to leave after Ralph Kiner's last at-bat and walk across the field -- while we were still on it."


"I look back and laugh about it now, but those were tough times," said Garagiola. "But the thing about it was, we never thought of ourselves as being in a rut. We thought we were going to win every game."
Indeed. From that Great Depression came a core of players that turned it around. Twelve years after that losing streak began, the Pirates won their first pennant in 33 years and first World Series in 35 years by beating the Yankees in 1960.
Pitchers Vernon Law and Bob Friend endured that era and later won rings. The experience of Pirates pain, they say, served them when they achieved Pirates glory.
"It was a good thing I was a young man," Law said. "I was able to grin and bear it. Experience is a great teacher. It gives you the test first and the lesson afterward."

Friend can remember Rickey telling them after the 1952 fiasco that there was World Series potential sitting in the clubhouse, and the players believed him.
"Nobody wants to lose," Friend said. "Losing can settle in. It's a dangerous thing. We'd go into another town and they'd be saying, 'Here come the cellar dwellers.' Then when you win, you want to hold on to that feeling as long as you can. When you win, you can't wait to get to the ballpark."

In the current rubble is the glimmer of hope that today's Pirates are a mostly young team that is supposed to be together for a while. The core is composed of shortstop Jack Wilson, rookie of the year Jason Bay and pitcher Oliver Perez.
"This is the kind of stuff you build around," Friend said. "If they can hold on to what they've got and add some pieces."
But there's the rub.

Suppose the Pirates had a lineup of, say, Tony Womack, Jason Kendall, Brian Giles, Barry Bonds, Aramis Ramiez, Reggie Sanders, Craig Wilson and Jack Wilson along with a rotation of Jason Schmidt, Jon Lieber, Kip Wells, Kris Benson and Josh Fogg. Except such an array of talent costs $86 million in today's contracts and doesn't include a bench or a bullpen.
"Look at the guys the Pirates have had," Law said. "That's what's discouraging. That's what free agency does. There's no continuity. It just kills a team. Guys go where they can get the most money. These low market clubs, there's no way they can compete. The Yankees and the Red Sox can go out and get anybody they want. Baseball's got to do something.
"It's tough for fans. You expect to be able to see your team compete and win. It's a game of hope. You just hope they can straighten this mess out."

Back in the day, even a stumbling franchise could shed itself of unproductive players, assemble a core of young talent and take its lumps in the rebuilding cycle. Today, it takes an owner with deep pockets to pay the freight.
"It's not a cycle anymore. It comes down to money," said Chuck Tanner, a scout and eternal optimist who managed the 1979 Pirates, the last edition to win a World Series. "If you don't have money, you can't [compete]."
There's not a bread-winner out there who has been reared on the principles that life isn't fair and tough times don't last but tough people do.

But even tough guy Tony Soprano needs some time on the couch. And for solace, there's the counsel of sports psychologist Dr. Richard Lustberg of Long Island.
"If there's no sun on the horizon, people can feel hopeless and helpless," Lustberg said. "Fans relate to losing through their own losses. It's a good object lesson in life. Not everyone is successful. Who can't relate to disappointments, mistakes, not having enough money, or staying in a relationship that may not be ideal but it's the one we have? Criticizing others allows us to feel better about ourselves, and who among us can't criticize management?"
But halfway through the litany of what ails baseball in Pittsburgh, Lustberg said, "Stop!"
The reality was depressing him.
"Don't you just love spring training stories?" Lustberg said. "Baseball allows you to recall your own childhood. Smell the grass and you're a kid again. There's nothing like it. It makes me feel like I'm in center field, and there's no place safer in my life than center field. What could be bad?"
(Robert Dvorchak can be reached at or 412-263-1959.)

Dejan Kovacevic: Perez, the Pirate's 14K Gem

Perez, the Pirates' 14K gem, embarks on golden path
Thursday, March 31, 2005
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

2005 Baseball Preview Index

BRADENTON, Fla. -- It was no place for a young pitcher, not even a wide-eyed wunderkind.

It was Denver's Coors Field, the hitters' paradise of baseball with its mile-high air and mammoth gaps. To boot, it was a brisk 39 degrees on a mid-May night. And into the box for a fourth-inning at-bat stepped Vinny Castilla, revving up his resurgent 2004 season with the Colorado Rockies.
Somehow, this scenario was on the verge of turning into a laughing matter in favor of Oliver Perez.

Humberto Cota, the Pirates' catcher, does not make a habit of hey-batter-batter bantering. But he makes the odd exception for a fellow Mexican, and he found that he could not resist offering a playful prediction to Castilla.
"He comes up to the plate, and I tell him in Spanish, 'You know, you're not going to hit my guy today.' " Cota recalled. "He says, 'Oh, yeah?' I tell him, 'No way. Wait till you see what he's got coming here. No chance.' He just shook his head."
Three pitches later, Castilla still was shaking his head.
Still speaking Spanish, too.

Oliver Perez: Big "O"
Oliver Perez's numbers for 2004 -- his first full season with the Pirates:
Games started-30
Earned runs-65
HRs allowed-22
Earned run average-2.98

Perez's 2004 Highlights:
Ranked 6th in the NL in earned run average (2.98)
Ranked 4th in the NL in strikeouts
Recorded his first career shutout April 25 vs. the Reds, 6-0.
Struck out a career best 14 batters Sept. 9 in beating the Astros, 3-1. The 14 strikeouts were the most by a Pirate pitcher since April 1985 (Jose DeLeon, 14 vs. Mets).

More than Oh-K
The top 10 strikeout seasons in Pirates history:
Bob Veale, 1965-276
Bob Veale, 1964-250
Oliver Perez, 2004-239
Bob Veale, 1966-229
Bob Veale, 1969-213
Larry McWilliams, 1983-199
Kris Benson, 2000-184
Bob Friend, 1960-183
Bert Blyleven, 1978-182
Bob Veale, 1967-179

Only he was muttering to himself on the way back to the dugout after a failed, flailing attempt at a patented Perez slider that nosedived violently under his bat.
"As a catcher, you try not to laugh," Cota said. "But some of the stuff that hitters say after Oliver gets them is pretty funny."
He grinned at the thought.
"We hear all kinds of bad things about Oliver, you know? And then, the next day in the paper, they're comparing him to Randy Johnson."
Perez went the distance in the Pirates' 11-2 rout that night. No other opponent pitched a nine-inning complete game at Coors last season.

Still, by year's end, that performance would blur into so many others of equal or superior caliber. Enough to convince more than a few in the baseball fraternity that, at age 23, Perez is on the fast track to joining the game's elite.
Not the current elite.
The elite of Sandy Koufax, Lefty Grove and Steve Carlton, the greatest left-handers in history.
And no one laughs when they say it.

Raw material

Perez did not emerge as a consistent major-league starter until last season, but his talent was discovered much earlier.
The San Diego Padres paid $40,000 in 1999 to gain his rights from Gustalvo Ricaldi, owner of the Yucatan Leones of Mexico's top professional league. Perez was 17.
Shortly after that, Mike Brito, the Los Angeles Dodgers scout who signed Fernando Valenzuela, advised Padres general manager Kevin Towers that he had just landed Mexico's most gifted pitcher since Valenzuela.
The opinion was shared by many.

"Everyone could see he had a great arm. But what set him apart was that he was so confident," said Ricardo Gama, a teammate of Perez at the time and now a member of agent Scott Boras' company that represents him. "We knew he could be great. Everyone in Mexico did."
When Perez made his San Diego debut June 16, 2002, he was 20, the youngest player in the majors. He hardly looked out of place, though, earning victories in his first two starts against the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees, the opponents in the American League Championship Series the previous year. In the latter, he outdueled David Wells before a home crowd of 55,858, prompting Padres pitcher Alan Embree to tell reporters: "You had Fernandomania. How about Olliemania?"

Perez struck out 13 in Colorado a month later, stuck out the year in San Diego, and his future appeared golden.
But an erratic opening to his 2003 season contributed to the Padres demoting him to Class AAA by May, just after he was pounded for seven runs in three innings by the Pirates. He came back up in mid-June but fluctuated from brilliance to butchery.

After an 0-3 run, the Padres traded him to the Pirates Aug. 26, along with future National League rookie of the year Jason Bay and prospect Cory Stewart, for All-Star Brian Giles. San Diego management, preparing to move into a new ballpark, coveted a veteran standout.
The move mostly was panned in Pittsburgh as yet another salary dump by the Pirates, and the immediate reaction was little better from Perez, who was disappointed to leave San Diego. He even made the naive offer to Padres manager Bruce Bochy to stay for one more night after the trade and fulfill his next scheduled start.
"It was a surprise," Perez said. "I didn't know what to expect from the Pirates."
The Pirates did not know what to expect from Perez, either.
"We knew we gave up a good player in Giles, and we weren't sure how Ollie would work in the majors," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "But we knew he had great talent."

[Oliver Perez
History in the making ]

No one was more eager to work with Perez than pitching coach Spin Williams, although it did not take long to realize that he was facing perhaps the most significant challenge of his career.
Perez had a blazing fastball that regularly hit 98 mph on the radar gun, rare for a left-hander, along with a devastating slider and blossoming curveball. He overflowed with confidence in his ability to attack hitters. The raw material, without question, was there.
But the control was not: The mechanics were a spastic mess. The problem was not that Perez did not know how to pitch. It was that he did it so many different ways, mostly without reason. He had multiple arm angles, motions, release points, even leg kicks.

Variety can be a pitcher's friend in the sense of mixing up pitches, but it does no good to have inconsistent delivery. Not in getting the ball to the catcher's mitt. And certainly not in terms of preventing wear on the arm, which was the Pirates' primary concern.
"I could see an injury coming if he kept going the way he did, and something needed to be done about it," Williams said. "For him to move his arm angles, really, was the big worry. If you drop your arm below where you're used to pitching, that creates a drag in your motion and, as a result, more strain on your elbow. A pitcher's elbow needs to be strong and healthy, needless to say."
Management closely monitored Perez for the rest of 2003 -- he went 0-3 with a 5.87 ERA in five starts -- and again in spring training, but advice was limited to minor suggestions.

[Oliver Perez
At 22: Memorable Company ]

That changed March 19, 2004, in Fort Myers, Fla., where Perez blew up in an exhibition against the Boston Red Sox by allowing five runs in 1 2/3 innings.
Williams pulled Perez aside that day and told him it was time for a fresh start. He instructed Perez to be at Bradenton's McKechnie Field early the next morning and every morning thereafter for the duration of spring training.
Together, they worked on rebuilding every aspect of his pitching motion. Using a white towel in place of the ball at first to minimize strain, Perez followed through again and again in an attempt to make his deliveries uniform. Then, he did more of the same while holding a ball and with different pitches.

"I wouldn't call it a total reconstruct of his mechanics," Williams said. "But it was an adjustment to just about everything."
The timing complicated the process. The Pirates were two weeks away from opening the season, and Perez was no better than an even bet to make the major-league roster.
"I had to make a lot of changes, and I still wanted to make the team," Perez said. "I was thinking about both of those things at the same time."
The angst could have mounted with his next exhibition outing, March 25 against the Cincinnati Reds in Sarasota, Fla. He gave up four runs in three innings, and his fastball was clocked 10 mph slower than usual.

[Oliver Perez
History cont'd ... For comparison's sake]

"That outing right there told me a lot about him," Williams said. "He could have been discouraged by the results and decided that his old way was better. But that's not what happened. He realized that he did everything we wanted from him out there. His mechanics were terrific, even if the results weren't. And he stuck with it."

The rest of the season, as Pittsburgh baseball fans would come to know, was magical.
He became the staff ace with a 12-10 record, a 2.98 ERA that ranked sixth in the National League and a total of 239 strikeouts that ranked fourth. His average of 10.97 strikeouts per nine innings was highest in the majors and a figure that only seven other pitchers in history have matched. He struck out 10 or more batters in a game nine times, including a career-best 14 against the hard-hitting Houston Astros Sept. 9 at PNC Park.

All that, and he managed to limit his walks to 81, a reasonable average of 3.7 per nine innings.
The transformation impressed those who share a uniform with him significantly more than it did his head-shaking opponents.

"You look at where Ollie was last spring, and you didn't know what you were going to get," fellow starter Josh Fogg said. "But, just like that, it seemed, he got as sound mechanically as you can be. And when you're a guy throwing 97-98 mph with a dirty slider, if you can locate your pitches the way he was, that's a heck of a package."

Fogg is one of many in the organization who credit Williams.
"Spin deserves the credit for that," McClendon said. "I think my pitching coach is as good as anybody in this league as far as teaching. He does a fine job with all our young pitchers, and he did a great one with Ollie."
Williams wants none of it.
"That kid attacked the problem," Williams said. "He went after it the same way he goes after hitters."

Mining for More

The foundation for a great pitcher, naturally, is a great arm. Not a strong arm, necessarily, but the one with the ability to pass through the pitching zone with the greatest speed.
Which is why Perez can throw 98 mph while pitchers who can bench-press twice as much struggle to hit 90 mph.
"Bigger, stronger has nothing to do with it," said Will Carroll, author of "Saving the Pitcher," a book that studies pitchers' anatomies. "Perez, like so few others, has a natural ability to control the entire kinetic chain and move his arm at 2,300 degrees per second, placing the ball at spots inside a rectangle roughly the size of a book. It's part genetics, part luck, and part practice, but all magic when it comes together."

Even if it is immaterial in terms of velocity, Perez is visibly bigger this spring, having bulked up his once spindly frame to 6 feet 2, 205 pounds in the past year. As McClendon observed in the opening week of camp, "Look at him. He's a man now." That could help his coordination and consistency.
Another element that separates great pitchers from good is their deception factor.
That is how baseball insiders describe the ability to prevent the batter from seeing the ball until late in the motion. It can be the arm coming across the body late or the wrist flicking in a manner that keeps the ball hidden a fraction of a second longer.

Versatility is important, too.

Perez threw 65 percent fastballs last season, which is understandable given that his average of 93 mph was sixth-best in the league. But he was no less effective with his slider, which many opponents have compared to Randy Johnson's. It has a dramatic bite that often leaves batters looking like golfers whiffing in sand traps. He also has a reliable curveball that can travel as slow as 75 mph and make for a dramatic shift in the batter's timing, plus a two-seam fastball that offers more movement than the conventional version.

He is tinkering with a changeup, too, but it might not be used regularly for a while.
Add all that to the command Perez displayed last season, plus his palpable comfort with being an ace, and the result would appear to be an advantage for the pitcher that borders on unfair.
"It's fair for us," Williams said, smiling. "It's nice for the Pittsburgh Pirates to have that guy who has all that. And make no mistake: Ollie has it all. He's got a tremendous amount of talent, something very few guys can say. He's so good that it's essentially up to him to be what he can be. If he continues to grow ... it's scary where he can go."
To get there, though, Perez will need to show that his command of 2004 -- the first sustained span of his career without control trouble -- was no aberration.
"He's not out of the woods by any means," Williams said. "When you pitched the way he did for as long as he did, you have to stay on guard."

Perez also must invest more time analyzing batters' tendencies, those close to him say, through scouting reports and video breakdowns. He has done little of that in the past.
"What's the most impressive thing about what Oliver's done, in my mind, is that he doesn't think about who the hitter is that he's facing," Cota said. "He thinks he doesn't need to study hitters. He thinks he can just overpower them."
Cota, Perez's closest friend on the team, paused and shook his head.
"Well ... he's right, OK? He can do it without those things. But he needs to do better. He's a No. 1 pitcher now. We need him. He's going to be lined up against the other team's best pitcher most of the time. Hitters are going to learn more about him. He works hard on getting himself prepared physically, but he needs to do more of this to get even better."
Perez did not dispute Cota's assessment.

"I must continue to work hard and do more to help the team. I know that," he said. "I'm looking more at the things I did bad last year, so I don't do them again. I don't like to make mistakes."
Perez, however, is resisting the Pirates' wish to see him sacrifice strikeouts to keep his pitch count low and last longer in his starts. He pitched more than seven innings only six times in his 30 starts last season despite averaging 104.5 pitches per outing, fifth-most in the league.
Williams is urging Perez to expend less energy to record outs.
"I don't care about strikeouts. I care about zeroes every inning," Williams said. "Strikeouts are Oliver's thing, and I know that. He loves them. But, as I've told him many times, he can't strike somebody out until he gets two strikes."

Sometimes, of course, a strikeout is best, particularly when men are on base. Perez allowed batters to hit just .180 against him with runners in scoring position last season.
"There are some pitchers who give up a couple of runs and go back to the dugout and say, 'OK, guys, pick me up.' Ollie tries to strike everybody out," Cota said. "I keep telling him, 'You can't do that.' But he does it."

For all the adjustments Perez has embraced at the Pirates' behest, he is not convinced of the need to lower the strikeout total.
"I can't change that. I don't want to change that," he said. "I have to go out there and think I'm going to strike out the batter. Sometimes, I can think about the ground ball, if I need a double play. But I think about strikeouts. I always will be like that."

Crown jewel?

One advantage to being a strikeout pitcher is that people remember your name. And, as was evident last summer in Pittsburgh when his starts were drawing record walk-up crowds, people want to watch you work.
Both of which could contribute to a legacy of greatness in years to come, should Perez fulfill the enormous expectations that surround him.
Some, including Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield, are cautious when predicting Perez's future.

"Let's not forget: We were here, a year ago in spring training, all kind of scratching our heads that this talented guy is continuing to show his inconsistency," he said. "Well, this guy regrouped, got it together and had a fantastic year. Can it revert back to some degree? Sure. We've seen too many examples. My belief is that it's not going to go that way, but there's a possibility."

One National League scout called Perez "an outstanding young pitcher" but cautioned that trying to rifle each pitch through the catcher's mitt is no way to establish the longevity or effectiveness needed for greatness.

"Oliver needs to use his off-speed stuff a little more to take some pressure off his arm," the scout said. "His changeup is a good pitch. He just doesn't use it enough. He tends to take the challenge of the bigger hitters, the better hitters -- Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, those guys -- and say, 'Here, see if you can hit this.' As he matures, I think he'll realize that changeup's probably going to be his best friend. My big concern about Oliver is his health in the future because there's a lot of effort in his delivery."

Others, however, already are comparing him to the most decorated left-handers in the game's history. And the numbers help their case.

Derek Jacques, contributor to the Baseball Prospectus online site, produced the following:
Perez's 2004 showing was the ninth-best by any 22-year-old left-hander since 1900, when statistics are adjusted for differences in the various eras. The top two: Frank Tanana in 1976 and Babe Ruth in 1917.

Of the six 22-year-old left-handers the Pirates have had in their 118-year history, Perez took second to Frank Killen, who went 36-14 in 1893.

Perez's strikeout pace of 10.97 per nine innings was the third-best in history among players his age -- only Kerry Wood and Dwight Gooden were better -- and the 22nd best since World War II when adjusted for eras.

Some of the greatest left-handers of all time -- Warren Spahn, Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell, Whitey Ford and Randy Johnson -- were not even in the majors at age 22.
Ask Perez's teammates, and they tend not to hesitate in predicting greatness.
"What he did last year was pretty impressive," shortstop Jack Wilson. "But if he can improve -- and I think we all believe he can -- the sky's the limit for him."
"There won't be anyone in our league who is more dominant, not with Randy Johnson pitching for the Yankees now," Fogg said. "There's nothing he can't do."

Ask the old-timers of the organization, and their answers are much the same.

"I compare Oliver to John Candelaria, and I consider Candy to be one of the best pitchers in the history of game," said Chuck Tanner, manager of the Pirates' 1979 championship team and now a scout for the Cleveland Indians. "On top of all that talent, he's a real competitor. Can he be great? Oh, yeah, why not?"

"I know he has the stuff to be great," said Bill Virdon, center fielder on the Pirates' 1960 championship team and a lifelong baseball man. "To be able to say he's Koufax? I can't do that yet. I know Koufax, saw him for a lot of years. As Pirates, we can all root for Oliver to be that type of pitcher. And we can be realistic in doing so because he does have that type of talent."
Ask Perez, though, and the concept of greatness gives way to a discussion of improving for his next start.

"I hear about all those names ... Koufax ... Randy Johnson. I had one good year," he said. "I am having fun. I used to try to put too much pressure on myself. Not now. It's a good game. You have to enjoy it. I am going to enjoy my next game."

That would be the Pirates' home opener Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers, his first chance to start a season as staff ace.
No pressure there?

"To me, it is fun. I love to pitch in Pittsburgh, how they came to see me last year. If you know people are coming there to watch you, you feel happy. It's an honor that people come to watch me pitch. I hope they can enjoy it again. That is all I am thinking about. I'm not worried about Koufax or Randy Johnson."

(Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at or 412-263-1938.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Charlotte Observer: Delamielleure Unhappy With Haslett

Joe Delamielleure

Posted on Tue, Mar. 29, 2005

Delamielleure unhappy with Haslett

Hall of Famer says comment by Saints coach inappropriate


Charlotte Observer Staff Writer

New Orleans coach Jim Haslett's comment last week that half of the NFL's players and all of its offensive linemen were using anabolic steroids in the 1980s infuriated Joe Delamielleure.

"That was inappropriate and irresponsible," said Delamielleure, a Charlottean, on Monday. "Haslett shouldn't say everyone was taking them, because I wasn't. But for Haslett to make that comment doesn't surprise me. I played with him (in Buffalo), and he was always inserting his foot in his mouth, then taking it out and putting the other one in."

Delamielleure played guard for 13 seasons in a Hall of Fame career with the Bills and Cleveland, and he knew the league had a steroid problem.

"I knew guys were taking them; it wasn't a banned substance until 1987, and (steroids) were a great leap physically for some guys," he said. "As much talk as there was, everybody thought something was going on, because guys were getting bigger and bigger. But personally, I never saw anybody injecting steroids.

After the 1985 season, Delamielleure was forced from the game, primarily because he couldn't add weight to his 260-pound frame.

"I was very bitter; 260 got me into the Hall of Fame, and all of a sudden it's not big enough to play," he said. "No matter how hard I worked out, I couldn't get bigger than that. That last year I was barely hanging on. And guys were cheating but nothing was done until a couple of years later."

Delamielleure doesn't put all the blame on his peers of several decades ago. At the time, he said, you could compare steroids to tobacco.

"My dad smoked; he thought he was cool, the Marlboro man and all that," he said. "Nobody knew that it might kill you, and steroids were like that."

Now they are finding out.

"I was in an NFL strongest man competition with six other guys back in '82 or '83," Delamielleure said. "Now five of them are dead."

Circumstantial evidence, to be sure, but worth consideration. And that brings him back to Haslett, who said he used steroids for one season as a linebacker in the '80s.

"Now I'm a personal trainer. I work with high school football players and they think if all linemen took that stuff, then I must have taken it," Delamielleure said.

He's not certain the game's current players have learned. The NFL has crowed for years that its drug testing is the pride of pro sports, but Delamielleure isn't sure that still holds true.

"Look at some of these guys; there's no way you can weigh 350 pounds naturally," he said. "And for everything the testers do, the guy who knows how to mask it is always one step ahead and just getting richer."

And he worries about the future of the game.

"It is unfair when you do it the right way," Delamielleure said, "and you teach kids that the guy who works the hardest will succeed, and then, because somebody else is taking something, it doesn't pay off."

John Mehno: Steelers Were Part of Steroid Culture

Jon Kolb

Sports Columnist - John Mehno

Beaver County Times

Steelers Certainly Part of Steroid Culture

A couple of newspaper guys went to breakfast with New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett and got a free scoop with their pancakes.

In a day when any mention of steroids guarantees a headline, Haslett let it drop that he had taken them. Avalon native Haslett also said the Pittsburgh Steelers had been ahead of the rest of the NFL in recognizing the muscle-building magic of steroids.

"This is totally, totally false when he says it started with the Steelers in the '70s," Steelers president Dan Rooney said.

Or perhaps not. On page 180 of Roy Blount's "About Three Bricks Shy of a Load" (published in 1974) there's one Steeler talking about using steroids.

Offensive lineman Jim Clack, a starter on the first two Super Bowl teams, recounted his use, which began after the Steelers signed him as a free agent in 1971.

Clack said coach Chuck Noll asked him how much he weighed and Clack said he was 228 pounds. Noll told him he should add seven pounds and come to camp at 235. In fact, he needed more than that. Clack was actually only 214 pounds.

Blount wrote, "Clack ate a special weight-gaining diet and took steroids and lifted weights."

Clack recounted weight-lifting sessions with teammate Jon Kolb that lasted more than three hours. He was at 248 pounds within two years, adding 34 pounds.

Clack said he gave up steroids at his wife's insistence.

"She says they don't do any good, but they do," Clack told Blount.

It is worth noting that steroids were neither illegal nor against any NFL policy at that time.

Haslett apologized but didn't deny what he said or dispute the accuracy of the quotes.

A crackpot theory holds that Haslett holds a grudge against the Steelers from his friction with head coach Bill Cowher, but that's bogus. Haslett was simply saying what a lot of people have.

One Super Bowl-era Steelers player bulked up substantially in a single off-season for a position change. Another shrunk by 30 pounds shortly after announcing his retirement.

You can quibble about whether the Steelers started the trend in the '70s but they were certainly part of it.


For once it isn't the Pirates' fault.

Their 1979 World Series trophy may be up for auction, and that stems from a miscalculation by past owners. The Galbreath family loaned the trophy to the Allegheny Club for display.

The Club went bankrupt and the trophy, along with other prized memorabilia, could be sold.

The Allegheny Club was a disaster from the start, a waste of prime seating space. Now it's haunting Pittsburgh from its grave.

Unfortunately, the trophy's plight is a quick and easy way to illustrate the Pirates' fall from glory.


The two Beaver Falls-Aliquippa high school basketball playoff games provided more entertainment at the Palumbo Center than the last five Duquesne basketball seasons.

Times sports correspondent John Mehno can be reached online at

©Beaver County Times Allegheny Times 2005

Ron Cook: '70s Steelers are Guilty Like Bonds

Mike Webster

[Mr. Cook fails to point out the fact that steroid use was not illegal during the it is now. Thus, a difference between Bonds and those football players of the 70s can certainly be found.

Is there really any knowledgeable football fan out there who didn't know that some of the Steelers' offensive linemen were taking steroids back in the 70s?

I agree with Mr. Cook that Steve Courson's book is very interesting...I also recommend it. I guess it could be construed as problematic that Steve Courson was one of my favorite Steelers at the time.

I recently read Mark Madden's piece suggesting that Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire weren't cheating when they set the single-season homerun records because steroid use was not against MLB's rules at the time. I might suggest that such use was against the law of the land and a compelling case for cheating may be made as a result. - jtf]

Cook: '70s Steelers are guilty like Bonds
Sunday, March 27, 2005
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It's so easy to look at Barry Bonds as a fraud. We don't like him. We never liked him, going back to his first season with the Pirates in 1986. We don't want to believe he hit those 73 home runs legitimately or that he'll ever be the true home run king no matter how many more home runs he hits than Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron. It has to be the steroids.

But it's a lot harder to come down on the Super Steelers. They were our heroes. They won four Super Bowls. They made us proud. It wasn't the steroids. It was all talent and hard work. That's our story and we're sticking to it.

You know what?

We're hypocritical as heck.

Bonds and the Steelers of the 1970s became uncomfortably linked last week when New Orleans Saints coach, former NFL player and Avalon native Jim Haslett shared his thoughts on steroids use with the Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette. Haslett admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs when he played and estimated that 50 percent of the NFL players in the 1980s -- including all of the linemen -- were users. He also said he believed the rampant use of steroids started with the Steelers of the 1970s, a contention that instantly made him something of a pariah in his hometown. The backlash was so sudden and so acute that Haslett felt the need to apologize the next day for mentioning the Steelers.

How sad.

The man merely spoke what he believed to be the truth.

For the most part, he was right.

Steroids use in the NFL didn't start with the Steelers. It was around for more than a decade before they won their first Super Bowl after the 1974 season. But there's little doubt the success of those Steelers teams helped to popularize performance-enhancing drugs. Haslett wasn't wrong about that.

It's understandable why Dan Rooney, who went so far as to question Haslett's sanity, wants to protect the Steelers' legacy. For the same reasons, he wants you to believe the NFL's current steroids-testing plan is an enormous success even though the experts will tell you the players always have and always will find a way to beat the system because their chemists are one step ahead of the league's testers. It makes it easier to sleep at night. Steroids make everyone feel so dirty, especially now that they are under so much scrutiny because of Bonds and Mark McGwire.
But not even Rooney, probably the most powerful and respected man in the NFL this side of Paul Tagliabue, can rewrite history.

Go to one of the old book stores. See if you can find Steve Courson's "False Glory," published in 1991. It was a fascinating read then and is even more fascinating now. Courson, who played for the Steelers from 1977-83, detailed his and his teammates' steroids use.

If you're looking for another Jose Canseco tell-all book, you're going to be disappointed. Courson did not name names. He didn't out teammates the way Canseco did to McGwire. The purpose of his book wasn't so much to make money as it was to shine a light on a long-standing NFL problem and maybe, in the process, educate a few young athletes about steroids. He had made national headlines six years earlier by admitting his steroid use to Sports Illustrated.

Courson exonerated the Steelers' defensive linemen -- "In those days, few defensive linemen did [steroids]," he wrote -- which is why L.C. Greenwood could go on a national radio show the other day and say, with good conscience, that Haslett's assertion was the damnedest thing he ever heard.

But Courson wrote that 75 percent of the Steelers' offensive linemen took steroids at one time or another and would sit around as a group discussing their usage the way other men might discuss their wife or girlfriend, a night at the bar or a good hunting trip.

"Disgruntled players throughout the league called us the 'Steroid Team,' as if performance-enhancing drugs were the sole reason for our success," Courson wrote, adding how maniacal the Steelers' linemen were in the weight room.

"The fact is, our [steroids] usage was the same -- give or take -- as most of the NFL teams at that time."

Rooney's contention the Steelers didn't have a steroids problem because Chuck Noll preached against their usage is almost laughable if you believe Courson's book.

"Chuck never encouraged steroid use on the Steelers, but he conveniently and most definitely turned his head to it," Courson wrote. He cited an example of Noll calling him out in front of the team and screaming -- "All you want to do is body-build and take steroids!" -- after his hamstring was pulled in training camp in 1983. "That was a full two years before I admitted my steroid usage in Sports Illustrated," Courson added. "Evidently, [Noll] was not as blind or ignorant of the steroid issue as he would have the politicians and public believe."

If that's true, that doesn't make Noll a bad guy. It just makes him the same as any other coach who isn't against an edge that might help his team win a championship. It also makes him the same as the baseball owners who really didn't want to hear about steroids as Bonds, McGwire and Sammy Sosa were hitting home runs and bringing fans to the ballparks.

Sadly, it also leaves us with a conclusion we'd just rather not face:

If Bonds' achievements are tainted in any way by steroids, then so are the Super Steelers' triumphs.

We can't have it both ways.

(Ron Cook can be reached at or 412-263-1525.)

Ed Bouchette: Haslett Admits to Using Steroids

Says Steelers of 1970s triggered outbreak
Thursday, March 24, 2005
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Jim Haslett went from a 160-pound quarterback at Avalon High School to a 230-pound defensive end at IUP, but he said it wasn't until he reached the NFL that he took steroids.

Haslett, the New Orleans Saints' coach, discussed the rampant steroids use in the NFL 25 years ago at a time when Major League Baseball is attempting to rid that sport of the illegal drugs. He detailed his use of steroids yesterday over breakfast at the NFL meetings in Maui.

Haslett estimated that half the NFL players, including all the linemen, used steroids in the 1980s when they were not banned by the league and legal if prescribed medically. He claimed steroids began in the NFL with the Steelers' players in the 1970s and mentioned Barry Bonds as having tell-tale signs of use.

Haslett said it wasn't long after he was drafted by Buffalo in the second round in 1979 that he felt he needed to take steroids to stay competitive in the league.

"They tossed you around, they were strong. So everybody wanted an advantage, so you tried it; I tried it. I mean I tried it, everybody tried it."

The league did not begin steroids testing until 1987; suspensions were issued for the first time in '89 and random year-round testing began in '90. The current steroids policy was negotiated with the players as part of the collective bargaining agreement of 1992 and remains in effect today.
A first positive test draws a four-game suspension. A second brings a six-game suspension and a third a one-year ban. No one, however, has tested positive more than once under the program, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Haslett said he believes the league long ago gained control of the steroids problem that was rampant when he played.

"If you didn't [take steroids], you weren't as strong as everybody else, you weren't as fast as everybody else," Haslett said. "That's the only reason to do it. Everybody's looking for a competitive edge."

Haslett said the Steelers of the 1970s were big steroids users.
"It started, really, in Pittsburgh. They got an advantage on a lot of football teams. They were so much stronger [in the] '70s, late '70s, early '80s ... Steve [Courson], Jon [Kolb] and all those guys. They're the ones who kind of started it."

Dan Rooney quickly and strongly refuted that accusation.
"This is totally, totally false when he says it started with the Steelers in the '70s," Rooney said between meetings yesterday. "Chuck Noll was totally against it. He looked into it, examined it, talked to people. Haslett, maybe it affected his mind."

Rooney pointed out that Noll's offensive lines were noted for their speed and trapping ability and not their size -- they were among the smallest lines in the league in the 1970s.
"Chuck Noll told the players, hey, this stuff doesn't do you any good," Rooney said. "If you just do the work, lift, things like that, you'll be all right."

Haslett, a Pro Bowl linebacker in the NFL, said he took steroids for only one offseason around 1979 or '80, then got off them. He estimated his playing weight at 252.

"I didn't think it was very good for you. I was hyper all the time. Got bloated, a fat face. I'll tell you one thing about steroids, if you take them you still have to eat right and you have to work your ass off. If you take them and you don't do anything, that doesn't do anything for you."

Haslett said he was a college coach when he first met Barry Bonds and saw a different player when Bonds returned to Pittsburgh with the San Francisco Giants when Haslett was the Steelers' defensive coordinator from 1997-99.

"I met Barry Bonds, he was about 185," Haslett said. "Next time I saw him, I was a coach at the Steelers and he was about 210. A big 210. You get so much stronger. Your bat speed [increases], everything."
Asked if he thought Bonds took steroids, Haslett did not answer.

"I promise you, if those guys did take them, they're working their ass off anyway," Haslett said. "So they were going to get gains anyway, but probably not to the magnitude they did when they take the stuff."
The main advantage to taking steroids, Haslett said, is they help players lift more often and thus get stronger and possibly bigger.

"I didn't put weight on, I just got strong. If you lift on Monday, usually you lift Wednesday, Friday. [On steroids], you can lift like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. You never got tired.

"Your muscles recovered from it. When you lift, your muscle tears down and the blood comes in and repairs it. It takes bout 28 to 40 hours for the blood to repair the muscle. When you take steroids and it rips the muscle, the blood immediately flows in there, and it repairs itself right away. That's why you never feel tired, you never feel sore.
"You can lift every day, you can recover right away. My bench went from 440 to 480 in about 6 weeks."

Haslett acknowledged he was more volatile than usual when he took steroids and that "I've seen guys snap. Somebody says something, they'd snap. You get hyper all the time, sweating."
He described the introduction of steroids by the Bills to one of their new teammates in the 1980s.

"I played with a guy who came into the league, he came out of the USFL," Haslett said. "He was 270, and he would never have made our team if he didn't get up to 300. The linemen got him together, got him a little supplemental pill for the week and he got up to about 305 and made our team. And he's probably one of the all-time great players in Bills history. He was a great player."
While his description fits former Bills center Kent Hull, Haslett would not name him. Hull joined the Bills from the USFL New Jersey Generals in 1986 and played 11 seasons in Buffalo.

Haslett has been New Orleans' head coach since 2000.

(Ed Bouchette can be reached at or 412-263-3878. Click here for more National Football League news.)

NFL Notebook: Haslett apologizes to Steelers for steroid remarks

Saturday, March 26, 2005
From local and wire dispatches

New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett has apologized to the Steelers and team owner Dan Rooney, saying he didn't intend to harm anyone or any team when he said this week that steroid use was rampant at one time among NFL players.

Haslett, speaking to a small group of reporters Wednesday at the NFL owners meeting in Hawaii , admitted that he had used steroids, and singled out the Steelers of the 1970s, saying "it started, really in Pittsburgh."

Rooney responded that it was "totally, totally false when he says it started with the Steelers."
Haslett released a statement Thursday saying that his earlier comments "were intended to express my understanding of the NFL's Drug Testing Policy, which is the best in all professional sports.

"As a former player and now a coach in this league, I have a tremendous amount of respect for our game both now and in the past. We would be naive to think that enhancing drugs were never used in our league, but the difference here is that the NFL recognized that steroid use was detrimental to our league and has implemented policies to ensure that it never would be an issue.

"I was not intending to do any harm to anyone or any organization or the NFL with these statements and if I did I offer my sincerest apology. I have the utmost respect for Mr. [Dan] Rooney and what he has meant to the NFL and offer my apologizes to him and the Steelers."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Obituary: David Little

Obituary: David Little / Former Steelers linebacker

Former player, 46, had enlarged heart

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The shadows that enveloped David Little always appeared to be immense.

He grew up and played football in the same city as his older brother, Larry, an All-Pro guard with the Miami Dolphins and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When he was drafted by the Steelers in 1981, he backed up perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Jack Lambert, another Hall of Famer, before replacing Lambert in 1984.

But Little never let that bother him. He never tried to ride his brother's fame. Nor did he try to emulate Lambert or any of the other great Steelers linebackers.

"David was his own man," his wife, Denise, said. "He never let anything affect him. He never got caught up in anything."

Little, 46, who played 12 seasons with the Steelers until he was released in 1993, died Thursday while working out alone in his Miami home.

Denise Little said an autopsy revealed her husband had a heart arrhythmia that caused him to drop a 250-pound barbell on his chest. The bar rolled onto Little's throat, suffocating him. Little was found by the oldest of his three children, son, David Jr., 18.

Mrs. Little said the coroner's report determined her husband had an enlarged heart, a condition unbeknownst to her and the former Steelers linebacker. The arrhythmia could have been brought on by "strenuous activity," Mrs. Little said she was told by the coroner.

"Me being his big brother, 14 years apart, and him having to grow up in the city where I was a star on a great football team, he never let it bother him," Larry Little said yesterday from Miami, where he is head coach of the Miami Morays, a team in the National Indoor Football League. "It never deterred him. He did things his own way.

"He was very easy going, very calm, and you never saw him angry. He'd give you the shirt off his back, if he had it."

Little carved his niche in 12 seasons with the Steelers, being elected the team's co-MVP with Rod Woodson in 1988 and being selected to his first and only Pro Bowl after the 1990 season. He was known as a quiet leader, a player whom Coach Chuck Noll once referred to as "the glue who held our defense together."

He appeared in 179 games with the Steelers, starting 125 after replacing an injured Lambert in the 1984 season opener. He was the team's leading tackler in five seasons and missed only five games because of injury in 12 years.

"If you didn't know it, or you didn't do the research, you would never know he was Larry Little's brother," said former wide receiver Louis Lipps, who played eight seasons with Little. "That's the way David carried himself. He always had a positive thing to say and he was the ultimate competitor."

"David was a raspy-voiced guy from Florida, but he was the quiet leader on that defense," said former guard Craig Wolfley, who played eight seasons with Little. "He was always overlooked, but he was always one of our best players. He had this great sense of determination and a great sense of humor that made him priceless."

Little once played 89 consecutive games for the Steelers. After being a seventh-round draft choice from the University of Florida in 1981, he didn't miss a NFL game because of injury until the beginning of the 1988 season.
"He was gentle giant," Mrs. Little said. "He did great things, but he never wanted to be in the limelight. He always gave credit to everybody else."

Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who is in Hawaii attending the NFL owners meetings, was unaware of Little's death. Rooney said he talked to Little several months ago when Little called about getting into coaching.

"David was a fine guy and was a really good player, someone who really contributed to the Steelers," Rooney said. "He played his position well. He was a good addition to us. I'm sorry to hear it, I really am."

Little played at Miami's Jackson High School before attending Florida, where he graduated with a degree in sociology. He was working as a counselor at Village South, a drug rehabilitation center in Miami, and often gave antidrug speeches at local schools.

Mr. Little was the youngest of seven children -- four girls and three boys. His oldest brother, George, died in 1971.

Mrs. Little said one of her husband's last thrills was seeing his son, David, help Miami's Killian High School win the Florida Class AAAAAA championship last fall.

"We were so proud of him," Denise Little said. "He got to see his son play and win the state championship."

In addition to his wife and son, Little is survived by two other children -- Darien, 16, and DeAira, 10. A funeral service will be 2 p.m. Thursday at New Birth Cathedral Church in Miami.

Mrs. Little said memorial donations can be made to a Children For College Fund at Wachovia Bank in Miami.

(Gerry Dulac can be reached at or 412-263-1466.)