Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Catching #756
Mets Fan Catches Record Homer

Barry Bonds did it. #756*. And for ten minutes, on his home field in San Francisco, he was celebrated as a hero. I admit, it was emotional to watch him pay tribute to his godfather, Willie Mays, his predecessor Hank Aaron, the fans, his family, and finally, with his surprisingly soft voice cracking and eyes brimming with tears, his late father.

Then of course, we all went back to talking about steroids.

Did steroids account for Barry Bonds' superhuman power surge, at a stage in his career when he should have been DHing for a last place American League club? All signs point to yes. But as CBS's Gregg Doyel points out, baseball's records were meant to be held by people such as Bonds. Pete Rose, a banned-from-baseball gambling addict, holds the seemingly untouchable record for career hits. Ty Cobb, a well-known racist and cripple-beater, holds the seemingly untouchable record for highest career batting average. These are characters beloved by their hometown fans, but held in less esteem by the rest of the baseball world.

They love Barry in San Francisco. And he was lucky to break the record there. There was nothing to ruin his hero moment. Hank Aaron, who many people speculated would snub Bonds, issued a taped statement of congratulations. Mike Bacsik, the pitcher who lobbed Bonds the record-breaking meatball, asked him for a signed bat. Outside the friendly confines of AT&T, baseball fans may have booed, but Bonds couldn't hear them.

But while the criticism of Bonds is more than justified, #756* may have been a great thing for baseball. In a year when we've witnessed Craig Biggio's 3000th hit, A-Rod's 500th homerun, Tom Glavine's 300th win, and Bobby Cox's 132nd ejection, casual baseball fans have never been more aware of baseball's cherished milestones. Bonds's record takes Aaron's untouchable 755 and suddenly makes it a number begging to be beaten. As Aaron himself implied in his recorded statement-- Bonds's feat isn't that he jacked 756 homeruns... it's that with one swing of the bat, he's inspired thousands of baseball players to come try to beat him.
"My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams." -Hank Aaron
And try they will. The next homerun king, whether it's A-Rod, Albert Pujols, or a bionic Sammy Sosa-bot, is coming. And the baseball world will be looking forward to the day when the homerun record will once again be held by someone who upheld the purity of the game. And when that day comes, the celebration will be that much sweeter. And the cheers with ring throughout the country, not just on the shores of McCovey Cove.

So let's not bash Barry Bonds, let's thank him. Every hero's quest needs a villian to vanquish. Barry's made the pursuit of baseball's holy grail that much more holy. The homerun chase is no longer about beating a number, it's about beating a man. And that's more exciting in my book.

And the baseball that breaks that record will be worth soooo much more.


P.S. It Wasn't The Steroids... It Was The Mechanical Arm

No comments:

Visitor Map: