Dec. 14, 2067
TEMPE, Ariz.– Joe Yingelhag, the last person to play in baseball’s major leagues without using steroids or human growth hormone, died today at his home. He was 83.
Yingelhag, the last player picked in the 2004 draft, was called up in the middle of the 2008 season by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays when Bud Selig, then the commissioner of baseball, threatened to “empty the rosters of every major league team and start from scratch” after a congressional investigation that spring revealed that all but four players in the majors had used steroids or human growth hormone.
“It wasn’t exactly how I imagined making it to the big leagues,” Yingelhag said in a 2049 interview with the Washington Times, then America’s biggest newspaper. “But it was better than sitting on the bench in single-A for another season.”
Yingelhag was the youngest of six children born to a poor family of farmers in Manhattan. They were poor, he once said, because his father, Elmer Yingelhag, insisted on “living off the land,” though the family lived on the first floor of a tenement building in New York City and the only land they had was a small window box the elder Yingelhag would overfill with a mix of corn and radish seeds.
Joe played outfield, second base, catcher and relief pitcher for his middle and high school teams, lettered in baseball, football, soccer, basketball, archery and wrestling, and set all but one of his high school’s athletic records. The New York Yankees selected him with the final pick in the 2004 draft based on his scholastic performance. It was not until several days later that the team learned that Yingelhag had been homeschooled.
The Yankees traded him to the Devil Rays for $3,000 in cash and 10 VIP cards good for free admission to every Tampa Bay strip club for a full year.
Yingelhag languished in Single-A until mid-2008 when Selig threatened to ban every major league player save the four who had not been found to have used steroids or human growth hormone. The last-place Devil Rays, who employed three of the four clean players, called up their worst-performing players, including Yingelhag, in an attempt to field a team of enhancement-free players. But in the first round of mandatory drug testing ordered by Congress, every major leaguer except Yingelhag tested positive for performance-enhancing substances, as did every player in the minor leagues, college, high school, middle-school, Little League, T-ball and most video games.
Faced with the prospect of going without any baseball for the next 15 years, until America’s pre-schoolers became old enough to play, or fielding teams of trained kangaroos, the commissioner and the players union reached an agreement that allowed the use of performance-enhancing substances — provided all players were required to take them to ensure a level playing field.
Yingelhag played for the Devil Rays during the three weeks between the release of the congressional report and the agreement between the commissioner and the players union. He hit .124 with zero home runs, zero RBIs, zero stolen bases and 47 strikeouts.
Despite his dismal statistics, Yingelhag became a folk hero to baseball purists. Well-known sports commentator Bob Costas ghost-wrote Yingelhag’s autobiography, “You’re In! The story of the last major leaguer to never use performance-enhancing drugs,” and after baseball journalist Peter Gammons retired in 2033, he wrote three books of poetry dedicated to Yingelhag.
“Joe’s passing marks the end of an era,” said the preserved head of former President Hillary Clinton. “I remember rooting for him as a child, as he played for my third-favorite team. He was a tiny guy by today’s standards — just a third the size of a modern major league player, in fact, but a marvelous soul, and despite his complete lack of an impact on the game in any measurable way, his tremendous contributions to baseball will never be forgotten.”
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