It is doubtful many of us will be able to look back years from now and remember precisely where we were and what we were doing when Barry Bonds broke the home-run record.
The moment is much more important than the individual.
Bonds is no Henry Aaron, whose record of 755 home runs he is about to break. Nor is he an Alex Rodriguez, who – if he stays healthy – will almost surely break Bonds’ record, whatever it becomes.
As a nation of baseball fans, we just don’t like Barry Bonds.
So his greatest moment won’t really be all that great to the rest of us.
Much of this is because of personality. The rest is the mere matter of history wearing down the hoopla.
Bonds is a surly, sullen, egocentric cuss who happens to own a magical swing of the bat.
Henry Aaron was, and is, a folk hero who worked his way up from segregation and the Negro Leagues to surpass the record of Babe Ruth, a larger-than-life character who was also the most beloved ballplayer the game has known.
When he was engaged in a salary hassle in the 1920s, demanding a pay raise, the owner of the Yankees told him, “Babe, do you realize you’re making more than the president of the United States?”
To which Ruth replied, “Well, I should. I had a better year.”
Ruth was a heavy drinker, a womanizer, a glutton and braggart. He was a heavy man with a beer belly and with pencil-thin legs – a strange looking galoot for sure.
But he had the personality of a cocker spaniel puppy. You had to love the guy.
Aaron is a splendid man, quiet and modest and altogether worthy of the love and affection of this nation.
Rodriguez is a magnificent athlete who can be as charming as anyone, including Ruth or Aaron.
Bonds, though, is his own worst enemy, a public relations nightmare for the San Francisco Giants, who have made him a millionaire many, many times over.
Barry is quarrelsome and crabby. His moods run from bad to abominable. There is unfathomable anger in this man.
And to top it all, there is the dark cloud of performance-enhancing drugs – the black plague of baseball – hanging over his shaved head.
Did he or didn’t he?
Was it anabolic steroids or a nutritious diet and lots of weight training that turned Bonds from a lanky, thin-as-a-rail lad into a monster?
He says no, he didn’t juice up, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
The commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, has been chasing the Giants around the past week or so, hoping to be there when Bonds breaks the record. But it’s strictly in the line of duty.
Selig hates Bonds and everything he stands for. But what Selig stands for is public relations and political correctness. He’ll be there to pose with Bonds on the field, smiling as if he really could stand the guy.
Some interesting numbers:
Bonds had 292 home runs in the first 10 years of his career, at which point he was 31.
Aaron had 342 homers at the same juncture. He was also 31.
Rodriguez was 28 after his first 10 years in the big leagues, and had hit 345 home runs.
Ruth was a pitcher for most of his first decade in the majors, but still had 238 home runs by that time. He was 28.
History, even in sports, is advancement – more a matter of carrying on than completion.
It is a process, not a number.
So, after Bonds breaks Aaron’s record, Rodriguez will break Barry’s.
The difference is, we’ll be a lot more likely to remember where we were and what we were doing the moment it happened for Alex.
Retired columnist Corky Simpson writes for the Citizen on Saturdays.