Saturday, August 11, 2007

Class Action

Well, Barry Bonds did it. He passed Hank Aaron's magic total of 755 career home runs to become the all-time home run king. How far he'll go, nobody yet knows. But I can't help feeling sad for the game of baseball. Clouds of suspicion hang over the new record, as we all wonder just how juiced Barry was during those shockingly productive years from his late 30s to his early 40s, a time when most players are winding down their careers, cruising downhill to search for an opening to a graceful exit from the game they have played all their lives. In Bonds' case, he actually got better, more productive, as he approached 40. Something doesn't smell right, there, and it will all come out someday. But in the meantime, we have an obnoxious, needy, self-centered slugger owning the ultimate sports crown.

The picture here is a drawing of Henry Aaron by renowned sports cartoonist Bruce Stark. In the summer of '73, Mr. Stark created drawings of the Yankees and Mets that were printed in the Sunday Daily News funnies, with each week featuring a different position -- the two teams' shortstops being shown one week, and their third basemen the next.

As a kid, I copied and learned from Stark's drawings. And I learned from Mr. Aaron, too. I learned that being the best at something didn't necessarily mean having to tell people you were the best. I learned that quiet, consistent excellence could result in eventual greatness. And I learned, as he received death threats the closer he got to the great [white] Babe Ruth's record, that success and achievement did not necessarily equate with joy and happiness. In fact, it seems Mr. Aaron was quite miserable the closer he got to the immortal Babe's record, hiding his wife and children from journalists and the potential crazy person who might want to do them harm.

When Barry Bonds broke Hammerin' Hank's record this past week, Mr. Aaron made a rather surprising appearance on the video scoreboard to congratulate his successor. Surprising because he had seemed so dead set against being a part of the circus surrounding Bonds' pursuit of the record amid allegations of illegal performance enhancers [read: steroids]. In the end, Mr. Aaron proved to be as filled with class as one could be. He graciously congratulated Bonds, while maintaining a polite and understandable distance from the whole thing.

The point could be moot in five to six years if Alex Rodriguez keeps up his pace and passes Bonds, with a steroids-free record and a much more gracious personality.

All in all, the events of the past week made me sad for baseball today, and made me even prouder of my childhood hero with the quiet dignity, unparalleled consistency and admirable class. Mr. Aaron has been surpassed. Long live Mr. Aaron.


At 5:08 PM, Blogger ginab said...

my mother watches baseball and probably she dreams of watching a game live, but she's 69 and she's mentally frail and it's just neat she keeps up with the cubs and the tigers (she's strictly midwest, and always educates me on national to American teams). I still get them confused, partly as I am in awe that my mother loves baseball.

She would have known Aaron is still living. Me? I confuse history all the time. Ruth I know what he looks like (and Aaron, too), and that I've never seen a color pic of Ruth but I have....So anyway, my mother would have known and she probably has strong opinions about this Barry Bonds.

It's already Sunday night here. Soaking my feet (I'd dreamed someone was about to massage them!). I also dreamed of snakes. At least I have been sleeping. Record that as perhaps closing the world record on insomnia. You can say you know me personally. to boot, I'll get you and yours front row seats.


At 10:21 AM, Blogger Ahvarahn said...

      I was talking about this last week with Ms Solaka, how the old values are worth much more than that ball that everyone scrambled for when Bonds stole the record. I am not all about giving Bonds a hard time as I feel he is just the personification of something deep within the sport. It is not just him and it is not just players.
      One thing is for sure, it was highly appropriate that Hank Aaron did not attend the Giants stadium when Bonds made the record, but it was testament to Hank Aaron the man, when he prepared that surprising congratulatory video, on the dignified way that he conducts himself off the field, never mind the glorious way he conducted himself on it. I think it is obvious who will have longevity as a legend in the sport.
      Take care, Chris,

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Anne-Marie said...

Hi Chris,
I remember watching Hank Aaron play at the end of his career- would have been 73 or 74, if memory serves. A class act for sure.

I saw a Giants game last summer and found the hanging rubber chickens on the stadium wall (one chicken for each pitcher who intentionally walked Bonds) amusing. Aside from that, I am not impressed by the man or the record- it reminds me of our own Ben Johnson, the sprinter who eventually fell from grace for being juiced as well.

I hope you're enjoying playing the game this summer. Our school board has flipped soccer and baseball seasons this year and so I will find myself coaching baseball in September- how weird is that?


At 8:57 PM, Blogger atomicelroy said...

major ambivalence about a major milestone.
I'll feel the same way when they let Justin Timberlake into the R&R Hall Of Fame, Hopefully I'll of shed this mortal coil by then.

At 5:20 PM, Blogger ginab said...

Had lunch with my mom today, Sunday. She said she watched the Tigers the other night but then she had to stop. Still, and this is why she had to stop, she knew they had lost 2-7 to the Yankees. And she knows how dashing the Yankees are (the players, their plays).

I sat stunned, wishing I knew her better tho glad she wore red.


At 1:08 PM, Blogger ginab said...

you've been tagged. rules or to pass over to mine. thanky-thee Ing-spot!



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