Any day now, Barry Bonds will hit his 715th home run....something that only Hank Aaron has ever done in Major League Baseball history. Maybe some time after that, Barry will hit his 756th home run....something nobody has done.
And that blast will elevate the already debated topic of steroids into a more historical context. This entry isn't about whether Bonds took steroids or not [I think he did]. It's about how robbed we all are about this record. How cheated we all feel. Even if he is deemed clean....he will still have that sort of "OJ Simpson stigma" surrounding him.
In sports, the two biggest records are the single season HR record and the lifetime HR record. The only one that comes even close is Wilt's 100 point game. Bonds could own both of those records before he is done [which would be the first time someone owned both since Babe Ruth did in 1961]. We should all be amazed and in awe of that. But we aren't. No one is.
Ask what is more memorable....and everyone will pick "The Chase" in 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both broke Roger Maris' single season home run record. We certainly were in awe of that. But Bonds broke it three years later and no one bats an eye. There are no "where were you" questions about that Bonds record breaking HR.
There most likely will be that question on number 756....in what may be the most controversial home run ever hit. Every home run Bonds hits makes me so happy and guilty all at the same time.
I am happy because this is my era of sport. I was barely alive when Aaron was wrapping up his career. My parents were kids when Babe Ruth died. I never saw Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle play. No....my era of baseball once saw 35 home runs lead a league [Fred McGriff in 1992 with San Diego]. Then one decade later, Bonds hit more than twice that [73 home runs in 2001] to set the record. The six highest single season HR marks were set from 1998-2001. Amazing when you think that in 71 years [from 1927 to 1998] only Maris hit as many as 59 HRs in a season.
Again, you remember where you were when McGwire passed Maris.
But then there is guilt. So that single season record seems to be a bit tainted. How about this grandaddy one?? No matter how we want to coat it....this will be known as the Steroid Era. I am not one for astericks.....but perceptive astericks will be applied by many when reviewing this time in baseball. I already have them. I look at my era with a bit of shame. When I am 50 or 60 years old.....I will tell 20 and 30 year olds about what it was like to watch Barry Bonds play. And those 20 and 30 year olds will say "yeah, but Pops, that's when they all were juiced up." Just like NBA fans can gaze upon the gawdy scoring and rebounding numbers in the 1950s and 1960s. Those 50 and 60 year olds can say "Wilt and Russell were the real deal!"....and I can say, "yeah, but, Pops, that's when the free throw lane was thinner and they shot free throws after every foul".
Of course, debate is a key element to sport. But when a record like this is broken, immortality is thrust upon the great. No one remembers what Aaron's 755th home run looked like....but we all know about that 715th one. It isn't McGwire's 70th dinger that gets the run....it's #62.
So when home run number 756 is hit....will we all be celebrating? Personally, we will a little. We will have witnessed the first time anyone has hit that many home runs. But just as personally, there will be some uneasiness that goes with it. That same feeling like when you beat a video game with the cheat codes. Or passing a test by copying someone else's sheet. You did great...but did you really do it? Even if there isn't complete proof right now, everyone and their mama's mama thinks that Barry Bonds was on performance enhancing drugs over the last five years and that all those gawdy numbers he's been putting up are just garbage.
There won't be an asterick by the record.....just a huge elephant in the record room.
The only good thing that comes out of this is that Bonds' records will be broken someday. Both his single season and [eventually] the all time record. And the great thing about it is that whomever is fighting to topple Bonds....we all will be rooting for him. Albert Pujols has a great shot at the single season record....and don't tell me that people won't be rooting for Pujols to knock down Bonds' record. We all can respect the record again when we think it isn't tainted.
Same thing with the lifetime record. Maybe we can celebrate the breaking of that record...unlike when Aaron was go for Ruth's record and Bonds is going for Aaron's mark. No one was/is rooting for them. Everyone will be rooting for the next guy. And then baseball may make another resurgence.
I wouldn't say that I like Bonds....but at face value and if there were no steroid accusations, I would be rooting for Bonds every step of the way.
So would the rest of you.