It has been a period of sports milestones for the bay area, first with the passing of the legendary Bill Walsh and now with Barry Bonds setting the new all-time home run record. Since we have already devoted blog space to Bill Walsh, this will focus on Barry and his accomplishments.
First, I am a fan of both him and the Giants. I was a real fan of his godfather, Willie Mays. I hoped that it would be Willie, not Hank Aaron that would be the first to break Babe Ruth's record. When that didn't happen, it took me awhile to warm up to Aaron as the one who would first reach and then pass Ruth. By the time Hammerin' Hank passed Ruth in 1974, I was really rooting for him to break the record. His quiet dignity and courage in facing hate mail and a lot of hostility from the white community won me over. I was glad to see the message from him that was delivered to Barry after number756. It was a very classy jesture.
Is the record "real"? Of course it is. The home runs were hit, period. End of story. If chemical enhancement was involved, it was a part of baseball at that time. How many pitchers were juicing up to get more velocity on their fastballs? The season before last, when much stricter testing for steroids was in operation, someone issued an observation that the collective velocity of major league fastballs was down. Coincidence? And how about a 43 year old man who will probably hit 30 home runs this year and who leads the major leagues in walks and on base percentage?
When I was very young and reading Marvel Comics, I idolized Captain America, because he was a superhero without super powers. He seemed to have trained himself to some mental/physical peak and could perform super feats without powers. Then his origin story was published and I found out he had been transformed into who he was by injesting a "super soldier serum", in essence. a steroid performance enhancer. It spoiled my enjoyment of the stories for about 2 weeks. And then I got over it. And this was a character who in the '60's was supposed to symbolize America.
There is supposed to be a hallowed aspect to the all-time home run record in this culture. Personally, I find it disturbing that a number can marshall all this negative emotion. Imagine a person less than pure who holds this record. What about the hallowed nature of the rights of minorities, women, seniors, children who are often times mistreated by an increasingly abusive culture? I think we need to look closely at ourselves here. Bonds may be facing some very serious legal issues in the future. But to me that is almost a separate issue. And that is for our legal system to decide.
Indications are that Alex Rodrigues seems poised to break this new record in 5 to 6 seasons given good health. But that will be then and this is now. And every home run Barry hits will be a new record. Go get 'em, big fella!