So far this season, baseball fans have greeted him with boos and jeers. One fan even threw a syringe at him. Bonds says this milestone is, "overwhelming. It's big. Really big." But nothing can remove the cloud of how he may have reached it.
Even casual baseball fans like me have noticed that many of the games "biggest" players have shrunk. We've watched them cry in congressional hearings and shrink until they looked like someone popped them with a pin. It's tough to feel good about milestones reached this way. It goes against everything we are taught about sports as a kid: "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game."
Bonds denies using steroids. His trainer has pleaded guilty. We've received tons of e-mail from you. Many of them read like this:
Bonds may catch and even pass Babe Ruth's record, but we can always remember Ruth did it without juicing up on illegal steroids. I don't feel like Bonds' record should count because of his steroid use.
And this one:
Bonds is a disgrace to MLB. Mr. Bonds has a very well documented history of disrespect and blatant disregard to the fans and the media. Mr. Bonds ranks along side of Pete Rose. MLB made the correct choice to not celebrate Mr. Bonds surpassing Mr. Ruth. Now, they need to follow up that decision by banishing Mr. Bonds from MLB. Mr. Bonds is currently under investigation for lying to a U.S. Senate investigation over the use of steroids! Mr. Bonds does not deserve to have his name mentioned in the same book, let alone sentence with the names of Mr. Ruth and Mr. Aaron. Mr. Bonds doesn't even deserve to be a footnote at the bottom of the page in regards to HR records — PERIOD.
When Hank Aaron (who holds the home run record at 755) passed Babe Ruth's 714, he was also the subject of lots of nasty, mean mail. But it had to do mostly with the color of his skin. Here's a sample:
"Dear Nigger Henry,
You are (not) going to break this record established by the great Babe Ruth if I can help it. Whites are far more superior than jungle bunnies. My gun is watching your every black move."
Sadly, the letters — many like this one — came by the thousands. They were filled with hate. Aaron said the letters, "changed him." While Aaron racked up home runs, he endured death threats. It was the color of his skin that his critics found intolerable. But he carried on, and just kept hitting 'em out of the park. He said, "When I was in a ballpark, I felt ... like I was surrounded by angels and I had God's hand on my shoulder."
When he hit his 714th — as Bonds may do tonight — it was in front of the biggest crowd in Braves history. Cannons were fired and two college students ran onto the field and ran along with him for a bit. The story goes that when he crossed the plate, his mother ran onto the field with tears in her eyes and held her son — she thought he'd been shot.
His is a story of bravery, talent and heroism. One all Americans can be proud of — and one without asterisks.
I wish that I wanted to let my sons stay up late tonight to watch Barry Bonds. But I won't. When they do their best and they lose, I tell them that what matters is "how you play the game."
See you tomorrow,
(Thanks to The Sporting News and Wikipedia/Hank Aaron)
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