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Real life just isn't as tidy as make-believe

The Cardinals' Rick Ankiel, a real-life Roy Hobbs of sorts, is now under a performance-enhancing substance cloud after it was reported that he may have received human growth hormones three  years ago.

But here's a key part of the story that was reported by the New York Daily News -- it appears Ankiel stopped receiving the substances just before they were banned by Major League Baseball. Ankiel's name has surfaced in connection with a Florida pharmacy that is part of a wide-reaching investigation out of Albany, N.Y. Already, Patriots wide receiver Rodney Harrison has been caught up in the investigation and has been suspended for four games. Also involved has been Cowboys assistant coach Wade Wilson (five-game suspension) and more than a dozen pro wrestlers.

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Ankiel resurrected his major league career as an outfielder this year after first breaking in as a pitcher in 1999. Like the fictional hero in The Natural, Ankiel was a young pitching phenom who descended into a baseball purgatory for several seasons and then re-emerged as a power-hitting outfielder. In 2000, as he was just turning 21, he was 11-7 for St. Louis, but in the postseason he threw nine wild pitches in four innings. Control problems and arm injuries had him scuffling in the minors and through brief major league stays over the next several years. He has been back in the bigs for a month now as an outfielder and, in 23 games, he has hit nine homers with 29 RBIs, including two homers and seven RBIs in yesterday's 16-4 Cardinals win over Pittsburgh.

Photo credit: James A. Finley/AP

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