Tonight is all about long ball.
Major League Baseball’s All Star festivities kick off in Cincinnati with the beloved home run derby in which the league’s best power hitters compete to see who can hit the most balls out of the park.
But viewers shouldn’t expect the same display of power that they became accustomed to during the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the game’s biggest stars broke one home run record after another. But as baseball fans everywhere know, those records will forever be tainted: Almost all of those power hitters, from Barry Bonds to Sammy Sosa and Mike McGwire, are now known to have relied heavily on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) while playing.
While the league officially banned steroids in 1991, it didn’t start testing players for PEDs until 2003. In the intervening years, the home run reigned supreme as players freely juiced to increase their strength.
After the embarrassment of the steroids era became fully public with the release of the Mitchell Report, which implicated almost 90 players with using steroids, the MLB has since cracked down on PEDs, expanding testing and implementing harsher penalties for offenders.
The evidence is in the numbers, as the total of home runs hit league-wide steadily increased in the 1990s, peaking in 2000 before falling by over 25% in the subsequent years.
Overall, however, the number of home runs has steadily increased since the early days of baseball in the late 19th century. In 1915, the entire league combined for just 635 home runs. At the halfway point in the 2015 season, major leaguers have already tallied 2522 dingers.