State Senator Joel C. Heitkamp

In 1961 baseball legend Roger Maris set his legendary 61 home run record. In 1998 Mark McGwire surpassed Roger Maris’s 61 home runs by hitting 70 and Sammy Sosa had 66 home runs. In 2001 Barry Bonds surpassed both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa by hitting 73 home runs. Today in 2005 there are a lot of allegations around all three players of using performance enhancing drugs to improve their home run status. Joel Heitkamp, a State Senator and Democrat from North Dakota, submitted a proposal to Major League baseball commissioner Bud Selig that if they are proven to have used performance enhancing drugs then North Dakota’s own Roger Maris should be named again as the homerun record leader. The state senator talks about all these issues in the following interview.

Listen to the Joel Heitkamp CYInterview:

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Chris Yandek: First off how are you?

Joel C. Heitkamp: “Doing great.”

CY: With all the steroid allegations and substance abuse going on in baseball, you have made a proposal for the commissioner of baseball Bud Selig to have Roger Maris’s legit 1961 home run record become the official record again. Tell me about that.

JCH: “The resolution we are forwarding on to Major League Baseball is that if it is found out that the individuals that beat Roger Maris’s record were on steroids then Roger Maris’s record should stand. We are asking them to reinstate it.”

CY: You represent North Dakota as a state senator. What makes you as a senator and a sports fan say this is sad what’s happening, and say let me make a proposal for Bud Selig about reinstating Roger Maris’s homerun record?

JCH: “Well, it happened for us watching the congressional hearings. When me and my buddy saw the congressional hearings we got mad. Being in the state senate here they started throwing out suggestions of what we could do. I suggested to them that we could put in a resolution saying what the North Dakota legislator feels about it. Then I brought it back out here to Bismarck and the capital and got partisan support, leaders from both chambers on it, and both the majority and minority. There is a strong sense here in North Dakota that if this record was beaten by individuals using steroids that just isn’t right. We need to fix that and send a strong message to Major League Baseball that Roger Maris’s record matters to us. He is from North Dakota. He is our hometown guy here and always has been. Even though Roger Maris is gone from this earth we are still pretty proud of him.”

CY: Do you think the congressional hearings for baseball have been handled well thus far, and as a state senator have you seen anything you don’t like?

JCH: “As far as the congressional hearings go, I think that it is a sad state when Congress or the local state legislature has to get involved in this when Major League Baseball doesn’t fix it themselves.”

CY: We have heard over these last few years about substances Mark McGwire used in androstenedione during his homerun record chase in 1999. We’re in the middle of a Balco trial with athletes like Marion Jones supposedly taking performance enhancing drugs to win gold medals. Is it sad for you as a state senator having to get involved in something related to sports when other more important issues in North Dakota and America are going on but we want sports to be pure right?

JCH: “Yeah. It shouldn’t be this way. They should keep their sports clean. People are coming in and buying tickets and making a commitment to make this thing happen. By purchasing that ticket they are paying for these salaries. They should know what product they are getting.”

CY: Do you think there is any possibility that Bud Selig would sit down with you and some of your congressional friends and talk about this?

JCH: “Well, I would hope he would sit down with Congress. I serve in the North Dakota state legislature. I don’t think Bud Selig is going to be beating down my door. I think he is just getting the message that we are trying to send. He knows there is a strong feeling out there that they need to clean up their act. He’s going to take all this pressure he is getting and hopefully do something with it. I just believed a strong message needed to be sent and that’s what we’re doing here.”

CY: Give me your thoughts on the Balco trial overall that includes athletes like Marion Jones from other sports besides baseball and thoughts on the Olympics and that substance abuse situation. What about other sports from what you have seen?

JCH: “Well, I am old enough to remember the German women’s swim team stole the medal from the American women swim team back in the 1970’s. The steroid use is an advantage. It is terrible for the person using it in the end, but for a short time period it is an advantage. If they are gonna let people have that advantage they should put an asterisk behind their name like they did Roger Maris’s for years.”

CY: Finally, since you represent North Dakota as a state senator and are a fan of sports, do you feel that it’s just mostly baseball, or are there many sports that use performance enhancing drugs?

JCH: “I think it’s a problem all over. I think we saw it show its ugly head again in the Olympics on our side. I think it’s problem, something we need to address, and it’s time Major League Baseball addressed it.”