Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Number 756
Forgive Me Father, for I have sinned:
Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Number 756
By Frank J. Colagiovanni
I’d say a prayer. Then I’d throw two pitches.
The first, a message pitch, high and tight—chin music—brushing him off the plate. The second, to put him on base, I’d plunk him right where he carries his wallet—possibly where he sticks his needles. That’s how I’d keep Barry bonds from hitting home runs.
But I’m not a Major League pitcher.
Now as a matter of full disclosure, I don’t like Barry Bonds, never really have. But, until his head began to grow three sizes, and he started dumping dingers into McCovey Cove, I never needed to pay him much attention. He’s in a different league, in a different city, on a different coast. And as a practicing member of the First Congregation of the Church of Fenway Park, I’ve regarded what goes on in the National League as a Catholic might view an Episcopalian: similar, but not the same. Their church might resemble my church, but their service involves a lot of bunting, that and weak bats in the seven, eight and nine holes.
But Barry Bonds become the elephant on the altar, too hard to ignore, storming heaven by assaulting the most hallowed record in the Game. When this baseball blasphemy is completed, he will have passed Hank Aaron as baseball’s all-time home run leader. 755 will no longer be the number. And Aaron, who took the crown, earned the crown, from Ruth, will no longer be on top of the list—sitting at the head of all baseball tables.
At the time of this writing Bonds has 747, eight away from the record, seven away from breaking it. In a recent interview at the site of his record-setting home run, Hank Aaron, one of the true Olympians of the sport, told the press that he wouldn’t be there when Bonds broke his record.
Records were made to be broken, especially in baseball where everything is measure by numbers. But numbers are stubborn things, like facts, and they mean something. 755 has represented the fact that Aaron was the best, consistently. 756 will represent the fact that that Barry Bonds cheated. He allegedly admitted it to a Grand Jury, his numbers are tainted. There have been others who have cheated, compromised the integrity of the Game, and we know them by name. And we know the facts of their fall from grace. How is Bonds worthy of inclusion in the Pantheon of baseball if Jackson and Rose are not?
And frankly, bagging Bonds might just serve the greater good. Banning Pete Rose from baseball has likely dissuaded others from betting on the game, just as the Chicago Black Sox Scandal and the fact that Joe Jackson left baseball in disgrace has done the same. Both Rose and Jackson had Hall of Fame careers, but neither were called to the Hall because they broke the rules—cheated the game.
What makes it even more maddening is that Bonds was bound for the Hall without going on the Juice. The rare 5-tool player he could hit for average, hit for power, run the bases, throw accurately and field the ball better than almost any player of his time.
But Rose and Jackson had Hall worthy careers before their transgressions; Rose wasn’t even playing when he was banned. He was a manager. But Pete Rose was banned from baseball for life and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was tossed out of the Game in 1920, never to return. Both remain on baseball’s Ineligible List to this day. Bonds should be out as well.
The perfect should not be the enemy of the good.
The fact that men will always cheat, that there will always be those who choose to break the rules should not mitigate the fact that when you catch one, you should punish him.
Because we can’t catch all bank robbers doesn’t mean bank robbery should be legal. Because we can’t catch all steroids users doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye.
On June 15th, 16th and 17th Bonds and the Giants come to Fenway, and while I have tickets I won’t be there. Other than to boo him or turn my back when he comes to the plate, I don’t want any part of Barry Bonds. It’s sometimes said that you are to hate the sin but love the sinner, but I feel contrition needs to be in there somewhere. With Bonds I don’t see any. And I don’t want to see that kind of blasphemy in my church.
Aaron won’t be there, and neither will I.
Frank J. Colagiovanni (www.colagiovanni.com) is an award-winning freelance copywriter and special contributing writer for Bread and Circus.