I was in the seventh grade at a Boy Scouts gathering when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record. I was at work when Barry Bonds hit 755 and 756 on Saturday and last night. No matter what you think of Barry, the talk of the drugs and all that, there’s something cool looking up at the TV and seeing the great record fall.
All I know about Barry Bonds is what other actual baseball fans have told me: he’s one of the most feared hitters in the history of the game. And as far as I know, there are no drugs for improving eyesight.
The playing-the-actual-game rap on Bonds was that he wasn’t a clutch hitter, that he’d come to the plate with men on base in big games and not come through with the big hits. Maybe he was a choker, or maybe he cared only about his place in the record books, but it occurred to me that he might simply have become too good for his own good. With the game on the line and no choice but to pitch to Bonds, no pitcher would dare risk throwing anything Bonds had a chance of blasting out of the park.
Imagine how much sooner Bonds would’ve broken this record if intentional walks were illegal.
Shakespeare would’ve had a ball with this story: a guy desperate to stake his place among the legends of his game makes an ethical compromise that gives him a shot at his place in history, but history judges him a cheater. He gets so good that nobody dares to compete with him. It’s not a game anymore, it’s just everybody going through the motions for several summers and hoping that as soon as he breaks his damn record, he’ll just go the hell away.
How’s that for cosmic justice?