That would be Charles Van Doren, the infamous game show contestent who cheated his way to stardom, in large part because everyone wanted to believe that a nice, handsome and polite guy like him would never do such a thing.
Joe Posnanski thinks that there are a lot of players in baseball like that — players people want to like and, when necessary, forgive — and that Andy Pettitte is one of them:
We want to think the best of him. Everybody does. People seem to see Pettitte as a generally honest and minor character in baseball’s PED scandal. Ask a moderate baseball fan who was named in the Mitchell Report — Sammy Sosa or Andy Pettitte? I’m thinking most will say Sosa, which is the wrong answer. Ask any baseball fan which pitcher denied using HGH, admitted using only twice but never more, admitted later than he actually used it another time, and I suspect Pettitte will not be the first guess.
Dead on. He doesn’t get any kind of heat for the PED stuff. Partially because people have chosen to forget it, partially because people liked his “aw-shucks” partial admission better than that of other players. As if the p.r. game is more important than the cheating everyone claims is the real issue. A-Rod came clean when caught in 2009 and was instantly a pariah (and still would be even if the Biogenesis stuff never happened). Why? People want to like Pettitte. They want to hate A-Rod.
Posnanski goes way beyond the PED thing, of course, talking about Pettitte’s Hall of Fame resume too. I’ll admit I don’t know what to think about Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case. The other day on HBT Daily I waxed fairly effusive. Joe’s comps, though — Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina and David Cone do have better cases — give me pause. Truth is I haven’t considered it too deeply yet. Probably won’t until after he retires.
But I do know this much: no PED-connected player is going to get anywhere close to the amount of forgiveness Pettitte will get when his candidacy is up. And, apart from the Van Doren Gene, I have no idea why that is.