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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hall of Fame pitcher Pud Galvin used a steroid. Big deal?

Pud Galvin baseball card
Goodwin & Company, 1887
Public domain Wikimedia Commons
Who?  Pud Galvin, who pitched from 1875 to 1892, age 35.  In 1889, when he used the steroid, Galvin pitched for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in the National League: 23-16, 4.17 ERA, 341 innings.  His career wound down from there.  The picture in this post suggests that Galvin enjoyed a good smoke in addition to monkey testicles.  Below are excepts from three articles with different perspectives.

SABR bio:

With the publication of Roger I. Abrams’ The Dark Side of the Diamond: Gambling, Violence, Drugs and Alcoholism in the National Pastime, in 2007, Galvin became 21st-century news. He was given the title of baseball’s first user of performance-enhancing drugs. Abrams found an article in the Washington Post from August 14, 1889, that said:

“Galvin was one of the subjects at a test of the Brown-Séquard elixir at a medical college in Pittsburgh on Monday. If there still be doubting Thomases who concede no virtue in the elixir, they are respectfully referred to Galvin’s record in yesterday’s Boston-Pittsburg game. It is the best proof yet furnished of the value of the discovery.”xxxiv

In that game Galvin pitched a two-hit shutout and was uncharacteristically successful at the plate. Abrams takes the article at face value, connecting Galvin’s participation in the trial with his success in the following game, in the process defying the long-held and correct notion that correlation does not imply causation.

The Brown-Séquard elixir was invented in 1889 by Charles Brown-Séquard, a French-American doctor. The elixir, which was injected, was based around extracts from guinea-pig and dog testicles and was apparently the first known modern treatment that contained testosterone. Abrams thus relates the elixir to the anabolic steroids that we know of today and ties Galvin to cheating and performance-enhancing drugs.

Abrams, however, fails to take into account the primitive nature of the Brown-Séquard elixir, which made it biologically ineffective according to scientific research published in 2002. The only possible benefit for Galvin, therefore, would have been a placebo effect. Moreover, the instance cited by Abrams appears to have been isolated. Abrams’ association of Galvin’s one-time use of the Brown-Séquard elixir in 1889 with modern-day steroid use is further undermined because the elixir was not banned by professional baseball. It is anachronistic to look back at Galvin’s one-time use of this elixir and consider it performance enhancement, cheating, or unethical behavior. Still, national news outlets and websites publicized and excerpted Abrams’ work, thus helping to slightly tarnish Galvin’s reputation and legacy.
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Pud Galvin: The Godfather of Juicing
By Joe Halverson , Correspondent Jan 15, 2011  BLEACHER REPORT: LOS ANGELES

... meet Pud Galvin, MLB’s first known juicer...

known for being the first Major Leaguer ever to publicly admit using performance-enhancing drugs.

During the 1889 season, Galvin openly used the Brown-Séquard elixir, an injectable substance derived from testosterone from animal testicles.  It wasn’t the same as an anabolic steroid (which had not been invented yet), but is considered a steroid precursor...

if a known juicer (who holds several untouchable MLB numbers) is already in the Hall of Fame, and likely isn’t the only one, there’s not a lot of reason to keep the best of the current generation out.
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Meet Pud Galvin, The Monkey Testicle-Drinking Rebuttal To The Argument That PED Users Shouldn't Be In The Hall Of Fame

Isaac Rauch  Filed to: BASEBALL HALL OF FAME 1/12/13 10:30am  DEADSPIN

Many hours have been lost this winter writing (and deliberately not writing) about who deserves to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and why everyone else is wrong about that. One contentious point: Shouldn't amphetamines—or "greenies"—which were widely used in the majors for decades before modern steroids became prevalent, be classified as "performance-enhancing drugs"? If so, shouldn't we penalize players that came to prominence during the pre-steroids era? When should the guilt-by-association end? ...

... wrong that the Brown-Sequard elixir had any positive effect. Nevertheless, Galvin was a known and admitted juicer, introducing foreign hormones into his body in the hope of reducing his recovery time and extending his career—the Washington Post even cited his performance as evidence of the power of Brown-Sequard's monkey nut powder.
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That last article quotes from this:

DOCTORS WHO DISAGREE

THE BROWN-SEQUARD ELIXER DIVIDES THE MEDICAL PROFESSION.

The New York Times August 23, 1889

Dr. Loomis calls his report "an experimental study of the Brown-Sequard theory." He says that the elixir has found good supporters in approved schools of medicine. His conclusions from experiments are that the fluid is potent to increase the strength of the human organism, presumably in old men, not by structural change, but by nutritive modification; that the alterations in muscular structure not essentially allied to old age may disappear, and a consequent recovery of former power by the tissues may supervene, and that finally the subject is worthy of further investigations...  He tried the mixture himself...

Dr. George F. Shrady does not believe in the elixer.
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