There is hardly a feeling better than dialing-in on a fastball, slider or curve ball with the sweet spot of the baseball bat and thus sendng a baseball flying into the outfield bleachers. Barry Bonds has done that more than any other person in the history of baseball. His record now stands at 757 as he was apparently still dialed-in last night in his first at bat. He is the Home Run King.
Barry makes great television. Barry makes great drama. Thanks to DirecTV and the Extra Innings package we had the game on at our house. Barry went cross-platform by being a part of the package on MLB.com as well. So, unlike 1974, when Hank’s homerun #715 was covered on network television and that was it, Barry wasn’t covered on network television but he was covered everywhere else and was available to more people in more homes and on more devices. If you wanted to see Barry it was pretty easy to do.
For me the highlight of the night came from my six-year old son. He stayed up with me to watch Barry, but after Barry went two-for-two without a homerun, it was time the little guy went to bed. That was about 10:00 P.M. All was pretty quiet in the house with the only real activity being the muted TV illuminating my bedroom. Approaching 11:00 Barry came up to bat again. Seeing his prior hits it was clear he was in the zone. There was no question this was “the at-bat”.
It was the at-bat and I, along with Barry threw both my arms in the air and watched the ball sail over the right-center field fence. Not having any bases to circle I simply sat there. I was feeling bad that I hadn’t granted my little buddy an extension on his bedtime because it would have been fun to witness it together. I was thinking, he’d tell his grandkids about it someday and I’d be a hero to children whom I would never actually meet. Just as I was thinking this I heard the cheers of a little boy, my little boy, who had apparently snuck down off his bunk and turned his little 10″ television on. He saw the homerun! The next thing I know he is standing next to me offering a high five.
Barry’s homer is something I will never forget. Though, hearing my son cheer and then sitting together for the next ten minutes as the Giants celebrated was priceless. I hope he tells his grandkids.
If you’d like to know how I feel about the controversy surrounding Barry Bonds, here is a Blog post I wrote when he hit 715.
Posted: May 31, 2006
Give Barry Bonds a Break…
I am a baseball fan and so it follows that I am a Barry Bonds fan, too. Maybe you don’t agree with this logic because Bonds is accused of two moral, one possibly illegal offense: taking steroids and lying to a grand jury. I don’t know if he did either thing. Part of me doesn’t even care. Lying to a grand jury is bad, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with how Bonds plays the game, 2,773 games, to be exact (525 less than Hank Aaron). And, steroids or no steroids, you still have to hit the ball and Barry Bonds hits the ball better than any player in the history of the game.
History is one of the great things about baseball. I remember when Hank Aaron hit 715. My entire family was crowded around our television set in the living room the evening of April 8, 1974. Without having to see a video highlight I can still picture the outfielder desperately climbing the fence to no avail in an effort to rob Hank of history on that night. I can still picture the fan in the blue windbreaker running up to Hank between second and third bases and patting him on the back.
Baseball has that kind of power over many of us. It creates memories that buoy and sometimes dog us. Look at the Red Sox and Yankees, they still hate each other years after most of the people involved with the trade of Babe Ruth have long since died. The Dodgers belong in Brooklyn. This darker side of emotion stunk up ESPN’s Sports Center last Sunday morning. I was amazed at how many of these guys – guys who actually played right along side Barry Bonds – tried to taint the magnitude of 715. These guys ought to know better. They have the stats. They know Bonds reached homerun 715 in the 20th year of his career after being walked 2,358 times. He has been walked so many times it is as if he wasn’t allowed to swing his bat let alone hit a home run for 5 years. And, yet, homeruns 755 and 756 are in sight.
Steroids or no steroids you still have to hit the ball and who among us can do that as well as Barry Bonds? I sometimes look at my prized piece of sports memorabilia, a 1968 Detroit Tigers poster signed by every player, manager and batboy, and wonder what happened to those guys. Didn’t some of them turn out to be drunks, law-breakers and slobs? Yet, in that picture they are the epitome of greatness, one of the finest baseball teams of all time. My sports memorabilia collection also includes pictures of me in the 16 marathons I’ve run and finished. I showed my kids the picture of my first marathon (St. Louis, 1984) the other day when we were talking about Barry Bonds. 22 years ago I was a shade less than 6’ and weighed 170. Today, 37 pounds heavier, still able to run a 5K in 20:00, I look not unlike Barry Bonds in his 40s, a little bulky. Life happens…So, steroids or no steroids I’m going to be at what may be Bonds last game on the 1st of October of this year. I already have tickets in right-center field. I’ll be sitting there with tens of thousands of other fans, glove on hand, hat on head waiting for the chance to catch a ball and share in the history of baseball. I, for one, sincerely hope he launches the next 40 homeruns and that America joins me in anointing a new Home Run King. It’s a magnificent feat.