Players have attempted to gain chemical advantages in baseball since the earliest days of the sport. In 1889, for example, pitcher Pud Galvin became the first baseball player to be widely known for his use of performance-enhancing substances. Galvin was a user and vocal proponent of the Brown-Séquard Elixir, a testosterone supplement derived from the testicles of live animals such as dogs and guinea pigs.
The book The Baseball Hall of Shame's Warped Record Book, written by Bruce Nash, Bob Smith, Allan Zullo, and Lola Tipton, includes an account of Babe Ruth administering to himself an injection of an extract from sheep testicles. The experimental concoction allegedly proved ineffective, making Ruth ill and leading the Yankees to attribute his absence from the lineup to "a bellyache".
During World War II, both the Allied and Axis powers systematically provided amphetamines to their troops, in order to improve soldiers' endurance and mental focus. After the end of the war, many of those returning troops attended college, and when they did, they applied their knowledge of the benefits of amphetamine use first to college sports, and then to professional sports, including professional baseball.
According to writer Zev Chafets, Mickey Mantle's fade during his 1961 home run chase with Roger Maris was the indirect result of an attempt by Mantle to gain a substance-based edge. Chafets alleges that Mantle was hampered by an abscess created by a botched injection of a chemical cocktail administered by a "quack" doctor, Max Jacobsen. According to Chafets, the injection included steroids and amphetamines, among other substances.
In his autobiography I Had a Hammer, which was co-written with
Lonnie Wheeler and published in 1992, outfielder Hank Aaron wrote that he accepted an amphetamine pill from an unnamed teammate and taken it before a game during the 1968 season, after becoming frustrated about his lack of offensive performance. Aaron described it as "a stupid thing to do", observing that the pill made him feel like he "was having a heart attack".
Former pitcher Tom House, drafted in 1967 and active in MLB from 1971-1978, has admitted to using "steroids they wouldn't give to horses" during his playing career. According to House, the use of performance-enhancing drugs was widespread at that time. He estimates that "six or seven" pitchers on every team were at least experimental users of steroids or human growth hormone, and says that after losses, players would frequently joke that they'd been "out-milligrammed" rather than beaten.
Third baseman Mike Schmidt, an active player from 1972-1989, admitted to Murray Chass in 2006 that he had used amphetamines "a couple [of] times". In his book Clearing the Bases, he said that amphetamines "were widely available in major-league clubhouses" during his playing career, and that "amphetamine use in baseball is both far more common and has been going on a lot longer than steroid abuse".
Relief pitcher Goose Gossage, active from 1972-1994, also admitted to using amphetamines during his playing career, in a 2013 interview with
Ken Davidoff. In the same interview, Gossage voiced the opinion that amphetamines are not "a performance-enhancing drug", though he admitted that using them was illegal at the time.
During the Pittsburgh drug trials in 1985, several players testified about the use of amphetamines in baseball. Shortstop Dale Berra admitted that he had used "greenies" while playing for both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the AAA Portland Beavers, and stated that while in Pittsburgh between 1979 and 1984 he had been supplied with the drugs by teammates Bill Madlock and Willie Stargell. Outfielder John Milner testified that while he was playing for the New York Mets, he had seen in the locker of teammate Willie Mays a powerful liquid amphetamine he called the "red juice".
Steroids finally made it to baseball’s banned substance list in 1991, however testing for major league players did not begin until the 2003 season. While testing for steroids began, the usage did not stop.