Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Idaho Mountain Express: A week when Good Fortune peaked - July 6, 2005


Big Bambu said...

(04-10) 17:47 PDT ATLANTA (AP) --

Hank Aaron doesn't plan to be at the ballpark if and when Barry Bonds breaks his home run record.

"Uh-uh. No, no. I'm not going to be around," Aaron was quoted as saying in Tuesday's editions of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Bonds has 735 homers, 20 short of Aaron's career record. While Aaron has declined most interview requests in recent months, he spoke with Journal-Constitution columnist Terence Moore.

Aaron said he wouldn't attend if Bonds were within reach of the record when the San Francisco Giants play at Atlanta from Aug. 14-16.

"I'd probably fly to West Palm Beach to play golf," Aaron was quoted as saying in Moore's column. "Again, it has nothing to do with anybody, other than I had enough of it. I don't want to be around that sort of thing anymore. I just want to be at peace with myself. I don't want to answer questions. It's going to be a no-win situation for me anyway. If I go, people are going to say, `Well, he went because of this.' If I don't go, they'll say whatever. I'll just let them make their own mind up."

Aaron, who did not return a call from The Associated Press, said baseball commissioner Bud Selig has told him that Bonds has asked several times why Aaron hasn't contacted him as he approaches the record.

"I don't talk to anybody, really, and I've never talked to Barry, outside of that commercial we did together a few years ago, and a few other short times," Aaron was quoted as saying. "I'm 72 years old, and I'm not hopping on a plane and flying all the way to San Francisco for anybody."

Speaking before Monday night's game in San Diego, Bonds said he wasn't bothered by Aaron's stance.

"He has every right to do what he wants to do. I respect that," Bonds said. "There's no reason for me to be disappointed. If he has other plans, other things to do, I respect that. He's his own man. He can do what he wants to do. I respect that. No hard feelings.

"Now if Willie wasn't there, I'd be disappointed," he said, referring to his godfather, Willie Mays.

Anonymous said...

Ray Ratto
The Ruthian waiting was the hardest part
Ray Ratto

Sunday, May 21, 2006

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Our long national test of cornea-searing patience is over. Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth finally share The Number.

It was a seemingly simple matter, really -- a 90-mph, straight-as-a-string fastball from Brad Halsey in the top of the second inning Saturday that Bonds aired out into the right field bleachers at the Oakland Coliseum. It wasn't a walk-off homer, or even a dramatic blow. It tied a game the Giants eventually won 4-2 on Ray Durham's 10th-inning single, it certainly pleased Bonds, his son Nikolai, a batboy for the day, and the rest of Bonds' family sitting behind the Giant dugout, and it earned him that rarest of accolades, a standing ovation in another team's ballpark.

On the other hand, it represented the limits of the sports fan's endurance because of all the baggage attendant with the accomplishment. It was a home run seemingly eons in coming, fraught with historical and sociological significance, and yet somewhere, someone is reminding us, "Well, he's 0-for-2 since his last homer," because part of that significance is wrapped in the thick cloak of national ambivalence.

The event was, as these things go, a fairly spare moment. Bonds left the batter's box knowing he had finally hit no. 714 (Halsey suspected it even earlier, when the ball left his hand), and barely got halfway to first base before pointing to his family in the stands. He hit home plate and pointed with both hands to the sky before hugging Nikolai, and then met his teammates standing outside the dugout and applauding.

He took a curtain call to accept the cheers, and a surprisingly small undercurrent of boos, from the reported standing-room-only crowd at Computer Virus Eradicator Park, and then the game resumed. There was no organized on-field fete for No. 2 1/2 on the all-time home run list. That would be reserved for San Francisco and No. 715, whenever that is.

It was civilized, meaning it was largely uncontrived, and refreshingly free of schmaltz. Almost too free, if you consider the poignant moment with the fan who caught the homer.

Tyler Snyder, 19, of Pleasanton caught the home run on the fly with a left-hander's glove from his vantage point behind the aisle between Sections 145 and 146 in right field. When he was asked by a medioid minutes later if would give the ball to Bonds, he encapsulated America's bilious ambivalence toward this achievement in a two-sentence retort:

"Hell, no. I hate that guy."

Then Snyder was asked (as though he hadn't been definitive enough the first time) if he wanted to meet Bonds, and he said, "Maybe, but I really don't care for the guy." Then he said he plans to sell the ball, quite a humanitarian concession in his mind, no doubt. He was then taken away by MLB security and later left the park, thus making this the most metaphor-laden accomplishment in recent sports history. Making money celebrating the achievements of a guy you loathe -- that's so the American way in the new century.

None of the other principals seemed to want to tackle the global meaning of 714, choosing instead to be creatures of the moment. Bonds, asked what it meant to tie Ruth, said he didn't know ... five times. Halsey, on the other hand, tried to make it mean a mild inconvenience in a game nobody would remember much otherwise, and only grasped the demands of the nation's need to know when he said, "The only real difference (on the balls) is that there's a picture of Barry on the ball, and if you look in his eye, he winks at you."

It was the funniest moment of the day, save Halsey's undershirt, which read, "Don't be jealous because I've been on line all day chatting with babes."

In all, it was a day in which nobody seemed willing to tackle the greater issues surrounding Bonds or Ruth -- history, expectations, the legal system, competitive ethics or social import of any kind. Even the A's fans rose to share in the ovation, which is as much an admission of weariness as anything else. Frankly, it took so long for Bonds to get to 714 that America might not have the stamina to wait very long for 715.

So what we have this morning is this: The present met the past Saturday, and neither the past nor the present comes out ahead in the exchange. Babe Ruth is no more forgotten now than he was when Henry Aaron passed him, and Barry Bonds is no more ennobled then he was before he hit No. 714.

But it is still the 714th home run, and in a sport almost crushed by its pathological love of numbers, 714 provides its own throw weight. It is the perfectly utilitarian number that means whatever you want it to mean, because of the confluence of unfathomable decisions and events that led to it. The mood surrounding the home run had the weird feel of "smoke-'em-if-you-got-'em-but-you-have-to-go-outside-to-do-it," a celebration in which the audience is responsible for bringing the joy.

It is surely a great day in Barry Bonds' baseball life, relief at the very least. For all we know, it is a big day in Tyler Snyder's as well. Without being able to read the entrails of his car's exhaust, we cannot be sure, but I suspect we will have to wait for eBay to explain it to us. In the meantime, we have Bonds.

"If he doesn't like me," he said with a weary smile, "give me the ball."

See? We told you this home run comes with a treasure chest of metaphors. Pick one you like, and wait for 715. This may take awhile.

Bonds' milestone home runs
1 -- June 4, 1986 off Craig McMurtry, at Atlanta

100 -- July 12, 1990 off Andy Benes, Padres, at Pittsburgh

200 -- July 8, 1993 off Jose DeLeon, at Philadelphia

300 -- April 27, 1996 off John Burkett, Marlins, at Candlestick

400 -- Aug. 23, 1998, off Kirt Ojala, at Florida

500 -- April 17, 2001, off Terry Adams, Dodgers, at China Basin

522* -- May 30, 2001, off Robert Ellis, D'backs, at China Basin

584** -- May 25, 2002, off Denny Neagle, at Colorado

587*** -- June 5, 2002, off Dennis Tankersley, at San Diego

600 -- Aug. 9, 2002, off Kip Wells, Pirates, at China Basin

660 -- April 12, 2004, off Matt Kinney, Brewers, at China Basin

661 -- April 13, 2004, off Ben Ford, Brewers, at China Basin

700 -- Sept. 17, 2004, off Jake Peavy, Padres, at China Basin

714 -- May 20, 2006, off Brad Halsey, A's, at McAfee Coliseum

* - To pass Willie McCovey and Ted Williams

** - To pass Mark McGwire and stand fifth all-time

*** - To pass Frank Robinson and stand fourth all-time