On Mike Piazza’s Back Acne: A Dose of Reality for Murray Chass


For years, former New York Times reporter and current blogger Murray Chass has been claiming that Mike Piazza used steroids.  Chass has no evidence, of course.  He prefers to spew nonsense without properly researching it.  Chass’ smoking gun has always been the case of back acne  that Mike Piazza had.  Although back acne affects people for a host of different reasons, Chass used it to convict Piazza.  Here’s what I wrote back in August:

Jan. 21, 2012; New York, NY, USA; Former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza attends the game between the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden. Denver won in double overtime, 119-114. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

"The only writer who seems to constantly accuse Mike Piazza of using steroids is Murray Chass.  What’s Chass’ evidence?  A syringe with fingerprints?  Prodigious numbers after Piazza exited his prime?  No and no.  For Chass, it was Mike Piazza’s back acne that led to the conviction.  Back acne, something that afflicts 20% of healthy adult men.  According to the article linked in the previous sentence, back acne can be caused by:  “Anything that repeatedly rubs against the skin, such as backpacks, rough massages, tight fitting clothing, weight lifting machines which press on the shoulder area, or anything else that rubs the back area and irritates the skin can aggravate acne in that area. Acne mechanica tends to be aggravated by moisture, so if you’re sweaty and combine that with the repeated rubbing that comes with your backpack, clothing, etc., that could make the problem worse.”Mike Piazza worked out a lot, right?  And as a Catcher, he wore tons of equipment.  He always had the most stuff on during the game, so he was probably sweatier than every other player on the diamond.  So, Mike Piazza had back acne because he wore a tight uniform and sweat a whole lot.  Or he had it because he did steroids.  Or he had it for some other reason.  The point, is that Piazza having back acne doesn’t prove a damn thing.  Murray Chass is grasping at straws, and should really think about giving up his pathetic crusade."

Two days ago, Chass was back at it (on his blog).  On the heels of the release of Piazza’s book “Long Shot,” Chass had decided to again attack Piazza.  He cited a “high ranking executive” who was “suspicious” of Piazza, WFAN host and known blowhard Craig Carton (who thinks Piazza used), Reggie Jefferson (a player who accused Piazza of using steroids, but has no knowledge whatsoever regarding the matter), and of course his favorite – Piazza’s back acne.  Here’s what Chass wrote:

"Even more noticeable than the size of his body was the acne that covered Piazza’s back. His fans have made a practice of ridiculing me when I have mentioned the acne, but acne is a telltale sign of steroids use. There was another telltale sign. When baseball began testing for steroids – not before but when – Piazza’s acne disappeared and his back was completely clear and as smooth as a baby’s butt.  Had Piazza agreed to an interview this week, I would love to have had the opportunity to ask him about his back and the timing and disappearance of his acne. But the guy who just published an $800,000 book, isn’t doing interviews."

Above, Chass accuses Piazza of refusing to give interviews.  This week, Piazza sat down for a lengthy interview with the MLB Network, appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and spoke with Mike Francesa on WFAN for close to an hour.  I’m not sure if Chass is unaware Piazza gave these interviews, or if he knows but figures that everyone reading his drivel has no idea.

More important than that, is the fact that Chass again brought up the back acne.  Chass wanted to ask Piazza about his back acne, right?  Maybe Chass, like other media types have taken the time to do, should actually read Piazza’s book.  I’m in the middle of it, and there’s a passage on pages 27 and 28 I’d like to share with Chass.  It recounts Piazza’s golf playing days in high school in the mid 80’s, as well as his time in the big leagues.  Piazza writes:

"By then, golf was starting to rub me the wrong way.  Literally.  Needless to say, I had to do a lot of walking with the golf bag over my shoulder.  The trouble was, I’d started to develop serious acne.  It showed up on my face, of course – Dad accused me of eating too much sugar and called me ‘pimple puss’ – but one day I got home  after stomping around for nine holes with that strap irritating me, and when I checked to see what the problem was I found nasty pimples all over my upper back.  Before long, the pimples developed into that disgusting cystic acne and became keloids, almost like boils.  I still have the scars around my shoulders.Years later, when I was playing professional baseball, I had the same sort of reaction when the strap of the chest protector rubbed against my shoulder and back.  At that point, the team trainer offered to get me Accutane, but I declined because I’d read that it caused pain in the joints.  I knew the ultimate solution was simply to outgrow the problem and cope with it in the meantime, which wasn’t encouraging: there are people in my family who’ve dealt with acne into their fifties.  In high school, I took tetracycline, but that didn’t make it any less irritating when I carried my golf bag."

I hope someone shows Chass the above passage.  I doubt it would lead him to end his baseless attacks on Mike Piazza.  Perhaps, though, it would make him feel like the clueless hack most view him as.  In the meantime, stay classy Murray.

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