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Asterisk any and everybody

Whoever had the foresight to copyright "He who forgets history is doomed to repeat it" must be having the time of his life today.

Take, for example, the renaissance of the long-discredited asterisk in our modern sporting life.

The little typographical doodad that made Roger Maris a sympathetic character 40-some-odd years ago is back, and with a vengeance.

The news reported Tuesday by the San Francisco Chronicle, America's Most Reliable News Source (at least for as long as they're paying me) that Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Bill Romanowski and several other professional athletes had been given performance enhancing drugs by the BALCO elves renewed the claim of the preternaturally suspicious that all the homers you've seen over the past decade or so require asteriskization.

In fact, the asterisk is about to become a fashion item for the ballplayer on the make, like the swoosh, the three stripes and the dollar sign.

In short, if you ain't got one, you ain't edgy enough.

Of course, it should be noted that the newest allegations have not yet been proven, that the players in question haven't been charged with anything, and in the cases of the players, they wouldn't even have been breaking any rules if they were on the junk.

For that, you may thank in equal measure the players union who didn't want drug rules, and the owners who benefited from the absence of those rules and in any event never insisted upon them in collective bargaining negotiations.

Never mind blame delegation, though. In this story, everybody is guilty until proven, well, guilty, and that has helped inspire the Innuendo Tabernacle Choir to push the asterisk on every offensive record set since the Great Strike Of '94.

Which seems profoundly unfair. Why should the modern players get to have all the fun? Shouldn't the asterisk be available to everyone regardless of era?

Like, say, Roger Maris himself? You'd have to contrive something to replace the 162-game asterisk Ford Frick gave him in an attempt to protect Babe Ruth's single-season home run record, so what about an asterisk for the expansion era, or the postgame beer, or the severe haircut?

Or for that matter, Babe Ruth? You remember his diet? His appetites? What sort of performance-enhancing glop were they putting in those pre-FDA-approved wienies, alcohol and sexual companions? The mind melts just thinking about it.

Ty Cobb? Wouldn't he deserve an asterisk on all his hitting and base-stealing records based on being a proudly virulent racist?

The Black Sox? Sure, they were acquitted of throwing the 1919 World Series, but the BALCO Six haven't even been charged yet, and that wouldn't prevent John Sayles from doing an modernized version of "Eight Men Out," with John Cusack as Jason Giambi.

Ted Williams? Can you get an asterisk for being grave-robbed and beheaded?

Joe DiMaggio? Surely there must be something fishy about the 56-game hitting streak -- maybe getting to play games against the Senators and Browns.

In fact, all the Yankees should be asterisked for getting to play with all the other Yankees. And that includes the current Yankees, all the way down to Enrique Wilson.

Or the Red Sox, for playing so heroically for all those years with the cruel Boston media, because newspapers are heavy, stain your fingers and are populated by, well, Boston writers.

Jackie Robinson? Getting to play with so many players whose ideas about racial purity cut into their powers of game-day concentration had to have provided a competitive advantage.

The pre-spitball-ban pitchers? No question. Also, include Gaylord Perry for going beyond spit to Brylcreem, KY Jelly, WD40, axle grease, belt sanders, awls, chisels, talc, confectioners sugar and anthrax.

Pete Gray? Only needing one arm when all his contemporaries had to use two.

Kirby Puckett? Playing in the Metrodome.

Pete Rose? For hitting so well while keeping his bets straight.

Denny McLain? For winning 31 games while playing the organ in night clubs and planning his future as an easily detectable swindler.

Nolan Ryan? Seven no-hitters and Advil commercials cannot be a coincidence, at least not in the present climate.

Tony Gwynn? All those batting titles while currying favor by being a thoughtful and agreeable sort clearly reduced the stress of the job and made hitting easier.

The '70s A's? Sure, for having the benefit of an owner everyone could hate with the white-hot intensity of an arc welder.

We could do this forever, frankly. Between all the players who took greenies and other amphetamines just to do day-game-after-night-game, or day-game-after-night-owling, the players who took "red juice," the precursor to greenies, Prohibition gin, cocaine ... all of it within the rules of baseball (which, loosely defined, are anything they can't or don't want to legislate against or catch you doing). Asterisk all of it, because ostracizing one group for the benefit of another is just plain wrong.

In fact, maybe we can asterisk all the players who didn't use anabolics, human growth hormone, THG, powdered wombat skull, Macedonian mealworm extract or whatever else is coming down the chemical highway next. After all, if the drugs are bad for you, not taking the drugs is good for you, and why isn't that a competitive advantage?

Excellent points all, we think. Sincerely, your good friends at *************.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.