Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Barry Bonds: It's Not You - It's Me

By Michael Haas

Remember when you were a kid? Everything was roses. Growing up in middle class white America, there was nothing to be afraid of, and everything to be happy about. But as one gets older, reality sets in. There are bad things that happen for no reason. There are bad people who will rip your heart out, and almost nothing is as simple or straightforward as it may seem.

The same is true for a baseball fan. When I was a kid, I collected baseball cards. Junior and Frank were the exciting young mashers at the time, and we would ogle their rookie cards listing in Beckett magazines. Then we would dig back in time, to the cards of the 50's and 60's. These cards were worth a lot more. We took note of names like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. We learned numbers like 56, 61 and 755. Looking at the pictures of these greats, we couldn't imagine them as anything less than great.

But most of all, we bought into the history, romanticism, purity and heroism of the game and it's players. We didn't hear about the 1919 World Series. We didn't hear about Ty Cobb's misdeeds or Pete Roses last years in baseball. Racism, gambling and cheating weren't really in our baseball vocabulary.

We knew there was an adult world out there. One of politics, of controversy and questionable ethics. But this was baseball.

We knew that the men we admired - from Mickey Mantle to Junior Griffey - were heroes for all the country. It seemed everyone rooted for the great players in baseball. And when they hit a home run, it was good for baseball.

Coming of Age is tough.


Jim H. said...

Part of the difference is that the bad boys of baseball's past did things that usually hurt their playing ability. Billy Martin was a terrific player and fierce competitor, but without his well-known drinking and fighting he might have been even better. Mantle missed some days (and some fastballs over the plate) because of hangovers. The Babe might have hit even more homers if he had taken care of himself. These players weren't trying to get an advantage. They weren't cheating (except maybe cheating themselves).

With Bonds and Giambi and other known or suspected users of performance-enhancing drugs, it's just the opposite.

The older players' flaws were more human, more tragic, and more forgiveable. They did not threaten the cherished records of the game the way Bonds has.


Sorry. Didn't mean to get all serious and philosphical.

(Hey, YOU brought up the whole loss-of-innocence thing.)

bizmarkie507 said...

Bobby Cox said it best when asked about his thoughts on Bonds and the Home Run record.

He said he didn't care at all because Alex Rodriguez is going to surpass Bonds record in a few years.

Old Cubs Fan said...

Ahhh - while we're discussing the loss of innocence here, don't forget the money angle. Didn't we grow up thinking the players played because they loved the game? Today it's all about the money. Bah, humbug - go to a AAA or AA game!