April 13, 2004
Bonds ties Mays

Congrats to Barry Bonds hitting his 660th home run yesterday, tying him with his godfather Willie Mays for third overall in career homers. (Quick trivia question: Who's #5? Here's the answer.) Barring injury or unforeseen dropoff in performance, he ought to be in position to pass Babe Ruth for #2 early next year, and at the rate he's going would catch Hank Aaron in early 2006.

Rob Neyer wonders what all the fuss is about.

Was it a big story on Aug. 9, 1960, when Ted Williams hit his 511th home run, tying Mel Ott for third on the all-time list? Was it a big story on June 23, 1966, when Mays hit his 521st home run, tying Williams for third on the all-time list? Was it a big story in 1972 when Aaron tied Mays for second on the all-time list?

Without checking, I would strongly suspect that those were not big national stories. Stories, yes. But not big stories, because the prize has always been first place, either in the majors or (when the leagues were actually separate entities) in the league.

I'm sure he's right, but do I really have to point out that in addition to the fact that there's a lot more media now and the fact that Bonds is the single-season home run king and the glare of the steroids scandal, there's also the family tie between Bonds and Mays? "I'm Number Three!" may not be a standard cheer, but surely it's clear why this is a big story. For me, as a kid I never thought anyone would hit as many as 600 home runs ever again. What Bonds has done is really cool.

On a side note, you might enjoy this appreciation of Willie Mays by rabid Giants fan and fellow Alabaman Tallulah Bankhead. It was penned in 1954, and her attitudes on race are fairly enlightened for but still reflective of that time, but what really comes through is her sheer joy at watching a great player do his thing. Via Steve Smith.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 13, 2004 to Baseball | TrackBack

All of the circumstantial evidence suggests Bonds did steroids and has tarnished this achievement and baseball. And Barry's not alone. There are plenty of players and owners who have screwed up the record book of this game.

I have another trivia question - Which player in the Top 15 of HR hitters of all time has the lowest ERA as a pitcher with a minimum of 10 appearances? (Hint: Until the mid-1960's he was #2 on the HR list.)

Posted by: Patrick on April 13, 2004 9:55 AM

Hmmmmm....So some of these grown men can hit a ball with a stick really, really hard.

Well, color me impressed.

Seriously, though, Kuff, love your coverage of Texas politics and such, but the sports stuff bores me to tears.

Posted by: NoFun on April 13, 2004 10:28 AM

The politics are fine and all, NoFun, but in an election year where all you see are partisan attacks and rhetoric all over the place, I for one find it an utter *joy* to escape politics once in a while.

Posted by: Tim on April 13, 2004 11:03 AM

NoFun, I suggest you give up. OffTheKuff has been doing sports columns for... hell, I don't know. The first one *I* read was probably in 1988, and I believe that was his second gig. I don't think you'll talk him out of them now.

I wonder if people will remember that Bonds was an absolute lock, inner circle, hall of famer before he started to bulk up.

Posted by: Danil on April 13, 2004 12:27 PM

He did "Off the Kuff" as a sports column back at Trinity in the mid-1980's.

Posted by: Patrick on April 13, 2004 12:33 PM

Guess I don't need to respond to NoFun after all. :-) Can't really add much to what Tim, Danil, and Patrick have said. Thanks, guys.

I wonder if people will remember that Bonds was an absolute lock, inner circle, hall of famer before he started to bulk up.

I'll remember. Unfortunately, I can already imagine some of the "why I'm not voting for Bonds" columns that will start appearing in 2011 or so.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on April 13, 2004 1:55 PM

OK, I get the picture. No use complaining about the sports chatter. Well, there hardly ever is. Just as some of you get tired of political talk everywhere, I get sick of sports talk.

The cultural expectation is that if you're male, you love talking sports. That gets old after a while:
Some Random Coworker: "Hey, who are you betting on in the Superbowl?"
Me: "It's Superbowl time again?"

I guess I should have been born a woman, or gay, cuz' I really really don't like sports.

Posted by: NoFun on April 13, 2004 2:16 PM

Chuck, that raises an interesting question. Can something that someone does after their career, or, in Bonds' case, after the bulk of their career, influence whether or not he gets into the Hall of Fame?

Obviously, given your stance (with which I agree) on Pete Rose, it can. No doubt that, purely as a player, Pete belongs in the hall. He was surely the best singles hitter I ever saw, and the man I wanted up if my team needed to start a rally. But his betting on the game broke the one inviolate rule: Thou shalt not screw with the integrity of the game.

If Bonds took steroids (and I tend to think he did for so very many reasons, but I'm not utterly convinced), those columns to which you refer will be right. Steroids screw with the integrity of the game unless everybody is allowed to use them, and perhaps even then.

I lived in SF for 10 years. Barry Bonds, despite his attitude toward the media, is a joy to watch play baseball. As a fan, I never felt like he was disrespectful to me, and never cared if he was disrespectful to sports writers. Especially with the close seats to the field in PacBell/SBC/YourNameHere Park, he would joke and laugh with the fans. When I went to a game and he missed a catch, when he was done cursing himself, he turned to the fan seated closest to him and said, loud enough for the rest of us to hear, "You woulda caught that one. Tell you what. You come down here and play and I'll have a beer. It'd do the team some good."

And, later in the same game, as he returned to the field after he hit a shot into McCovey Cove, he turned to the same fan and said, again loud enough for the whole section to hear, "Maybe I'd better stay here."

I loved watching Barry Bonds, and rooted for him much more than I rooted for the team. But if we find that the allegations are true, if he took drugs to enable him to do what nobody before him had ever done, then yes, he's out. For all time. Irrevocably.

It's easy to say that about Pete Rose. He's an ass. It's harder to say that about Barry. But I hope we all have the courage to do so.

Posted by: Ron on April 13, 2004 2:17 PM

NoFun - No problem. For what it's worth, I know plenty of guys who don't like sports.

Ron - Interesting point. However, I'd argue that the gambling ban, the violation of which is the reason why Pete Rose is persona non grata, is black letter law and is posted prominently in every clubhouse. Steroid usage is only now being considered an offense. Should Barry Bonds be convicted ex post facto? That's also assuming he really did/does use steroids - I've heard allegations but to my knowledge he hasn't signed any confessions. Pete Rose, of course, agreed in writing to the sentence he was given.

Bear in mind also, it's not the gambling per se that got Rose barred from Cooperstown. It was being excommunicated from the game, as the HoF charter says it does not take ineligible players. Unless Barry Bonds is rusticated in a similar fashion, Hall voters are not supposed to systematically shun him.

So, while I see where you're coming from, I believe that Bonds' alleged steroid use should not be cause to keep him out of the HoF. As things stand now, any Hall voter that left him off his ballot because Bonds might've popped andro is shirking his responsibility.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on April 13, 2004 4:20 PM

You're right about Rose, but it should also be remembered that he was not banned from the Hall by his 1989 agreement. At that time, being placed on the "permanently ineligible" list did *not* include a HoF ban.

It wasn't until 1991 -- just before Rose would have been eligible for the ballot -- did they change their rules and also make him ineligible for enshrinement at Cooperstown. Say what you will about Rose or one's opinion on his reinstatement, but this doesn't pass the smell test, as it reeks of "ex post facto." And while the Hall isn't a government body and is therefore not subject to a ban on passing ex post facto rules which enhance previous punishments, it arguably flies in the face of justice nevertheless.

Posted by: Tim on April 14, 2004 8:57 AM