Barry Bonds hits two home runs in the Giants win over the Pirates yesterday. That makes him just 19 homes shy of Hank Aaron’s record. It also gives the Giants their third win of the dismal start to this season. They may end up not going to the playoffs this year. Very few teams that start off as badly as they have make it to the playoffs. The NL West, however, has been relatively weak these past few years, and the Giants just might pull it off if they get their act together.
Also, on Barry Bonds and his chase of Aaron, I thought this article was interesting. Many many people really disparage Bonds. But I agree with this author that much of it is unwarranted. Sure Bonds doesn’t help with his attitude, but as far as playing baseball is concerned, there have been few better than Bonds.
Bonds is a cantankerous figure (he has that in common with Jackie Robinson) and widely hated by sportswriters and fans. Baseball purists despise him for allegedly having used steroids. This, they claim, profanes baseball’s holy of holies, its statistical integrity. How can you compare records if they are compiled under unequal conditions?
This is, in a word, nonsense. Ruth broke into baseball when a dozen homers led the league. Then the grandees of the game decided to soup up the ball — a form of artificial enhancement at least as intrusive as steroids — and presto, the Babe (and, in his wake, others) hit 50 a season out of the park.
Despite this great break with the past, baseball venerated Ruth. When Hank Aaron, a black man, broke his record in 1973, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn didn’t bother coming to the game. The snub left Aaron embittered. He (and millions of his fellow African Americans) correctly saw it as another example of baseball’s Negro Problem.
Now it is Bonds’ turn. He’ll probably pass Aaron this season, a feat that will be greeted — outside of San Francisco — with near universal resentment and animosity by white fans and writers (the press boxes of baseball are even more monochromatic than the stands). Commissioner Bud Selig says that a new home run mark will be treated as a routine event, just another record being broken. He might not bother to attend.
Baseball’s few remaining black fans will see the double standard. What’s so bad about what Bonds is accused of, they will ask? He used drugs? See Jim Bouton’s great baseball diary “Ball Four,” on the rampant use of amphetamines in the Golden Age of Mickey Mantle. Bonds broke the law by allegedly taking illegal substances? The Babe himself openly boozed his way through Prohibition. Bonds broke baseball’s rules? If that were a major crime, spit-baller Gaylord Perry wouldn’t be in the great hall at Cooperstown.
I tend to see it this way also. Babe Ruth didn’t somehow find a new way of hitting the baseball that catapulted him into the 50 home runs per season league. The ball was changed, juiced to make it go farther. I think today’s players ought to try and hit balls made back in the 1910s and see just how far they can hit them today.