NEW YORK – Hank Aaron's verdict on baseball's steroid scandal: "Saddened."
Aaron, long reluctant to weigh in too strongly on the stories involving steroids and baseball, said Tuesday he'll keep sticking with that tact in the cases of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, both accused of lying about using steroids and facing trial next spring
"I'm just saddened by it," said Aaron, who held the all-time home run record until Bonds broke it in 2007. "I'm not a judge and I'm not a juror and I don't know who's guilty and who's what. I'm just saddened for baseball and saddened for Clemens and Bonds, both."
Aaron said he hasn't given any thought to whether Bonds' or Clemens' numbers should stand, be wiped away or accompanied by asterisk.
"I have too much to worry about to worry about Clemens and Bonds," he said.
Last month, Clemens was indicted for lying to Congress and has a trial scheduled for April. Bonds' faces a perjury trial in March.
More important to Aaron than the news on steroids is the state of baseball in America, where blacks have slowly been seeping out of the sport. Last season, the number of black players in the major leagues was 9 percent, a slight improvement from a low of 8.2 percent in 2007.
Aaron sees the limited number of college scholarships as blocking development.
"Football has such a lucrative scholarship that when parents talk to their kids about going to school, they talk about one thing, and that's playing football," Aaron said. "You had kids like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, who could've been excellent baseball players, but they had to go to school on football scholarships and play two sports. In the long run, it's not going to work, especially for baseball."
(Sanders also ran track at Florida State.)
Aaron, attending the U.S. Open to receive the U.S. Tennis Association's "Breaking the Barriers" honor, said he never played much tennis as a kid, but always appreciated people who could hit the ball hard — and keep it in the park. He met Arthur Ashe, long considered one of sports' great ambassadors, on a few occasions and always appreciated the way he handled himself in an era where blacks faced more harassment on and off the court and field.
"I admired him, what he stood for, the way he went about his business," Aaron said. "He was a fine example of what I always wanted to be in my life, to carry myself the same way he did."
(This version CORRECTS Corrects reference to 9 percent.)