Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bonds

It seems every day now there appears a myriad of articles on Barry Bonds chasing Hank Aaron's home run record. Every day somebody else weighs in on the historical and societal implications of Bonds inching closer and closer to the record, yet in all the controversy and opining the strongest position being taken isn't written on paper, it's the action (or inaction) of Hank Aaron. Aaron has stated that he will not be in attendance when Bonds hits his 756th home run--passing up the long time record of 755 home runs hit by Hank Aaron.

Good for Hammerin' Hank!

I read today in The Birmingham News that older fans of the game tend to defend Aaron, while younger fans are in favor of Bonds passing up the record (an inevitable milestone). I don't necessarily agree. I, at the rightful age of twenty-two, am quite alarmed by the pouring out of support for Bonds. I suppose the argument can still be made that there is no hard proof that Bonds actually used steroids, but come on, have you looked at the man? I have a rookie card of Bonds who was much smaller then, though muscular and fit. Looking at him now, be in not for his one-of-a-kind smile, you wouldn't know he was the same guy. His broad shoulders appear inches wider than they ever did when he was a rookie and the man is simply huge. Did he use steroids? I'd bet my life savings on it.

In addition to my confusion as to why younger fans are still supporting the known steroid user, I have to wonder about today's young baseball fans. Have they no sense of history? Have they no respect for the leaders, heroes, and legends of the game? I would never in a million years put Barry Bonds in a category with the all-time best. Never would he appear among the giants--Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, et al. You just don't look at Barry Bonds and say, yeah, he's got what the Great Bambino had. Hell no. So, I stand by my amazement that younger fans of the game are watching anxiously for the great 756.

Knowing that a few readers might say that younger fans are supporting Bonds because they grew up watching him, I must confess that there was a season of Giants baseball that I watched closely. In fact if I missed more than one televised game that year I would be surprise. The year was 1993, I was eight years old, and I loved Will Clark. For you baseball fans out there, you know that Will played first base for the San Francisco Giants as a rookie and up until 1993. He then played for Texas and Baltimore, ending his career after fifteen seasons. He played in six all-star games, received the gold glove award, and was a great all around player. His last year with the Giants was Bonds' first year and I think Bonds hit something like 45 or 46 homers that first season playing for the Giants placing him atop the leader board for homers in the regular season. It's not that I didn't like Barry, he had a stellar first season in the bay city, but there was just something smug about him that I didn't like. At eight I knew there was something about Bonds that just wasn't heroic.

The first year Bonds played with the Giants was the only year of my entire life I was a bigger fan of any team than I was of the Braves (I went back to the Braves in the '94 season and have stuck with them since).

You have to ask yourself how you feel about Cooperstown and then ask yourself how you would feel with Bonds having a place at Cooperstown. Perhaps my view of Cooperstown is skewed because one of my earliest memories of the Baseball Hall of Fame is Johnny Bench being inducted in '89 and I keep thinking of the alphabetical list of hall-of-famers and the thought of Bonds situated between Wade Boggs and Jim Bottomley distresses me. Looking at this year's inductees adds to my dismay--Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn, two true gentlemen of the game. I suppose I should worry less about Cooperstown, Bonds' place is secure with the heroes of baseball unless hard proof of his steroid use (proof other than Mr. Canseco) comes out between now and his induction, and worry more about Hammerin' Hank. In the back of my mind I had hoped nobody would ever take my favorite players' place on that leader board.

Regardless of when Bonds hits 756, the expected date is mid-June, I'll be with Hammerin' Hank--not at At&T Park or watching on ESPN.

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