Celebrating Strangers

During today's exciting 4-1 Twins victory over the Indians, Burt Blyleven asked cohort Dick Bremer his opinion about Barry Bonds' breaking Hank Aaron's home-run record. "I... uh, well, um... I'm saddened," Dick stammered. When pressed (and Burt was clearly relishing this opportunity for argument), Bremer finally said that it's a shame that Bonds was besting a man who went about his business with "dignity, honor and humility." And that, my friends, is exactly what's wrong with this debate.

The whole steroids thing is one kettle of fish, a red herring in part because there's no proof and for another part because we'll never know how many participated in the culture of drug use. Could have been going on all through the 80s for all we know, from durable pitchers like Nolan Ryan and Jack Morris to sluggers like Cecil Fielder and Dave Winfield. But Bonds would be in trouble even if he weren't on the juice. No, Hank Aaron comported himself like the good man that he is, and Barry is a jerk. He's not even a fat, womanizing, hedonistic asshole like Babe Ruth could be on a good day. And I wonder how Dick Bremer felt when Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's base hit record. Because of course Rose was a dignified human being at the time. And Cobb was a virulent racist. Things sure changed since then, eh?

The moral of this silly little tale is simply this: don't get too close to your heroes, folks. During today's game--a doozy by the way, two pitching duels and indication that Garza perhaps should have been called up ages ago (but I digress)--Bremer spoke of the difference between "East Coast" and "West Coast" baseball, in the sense that Bonds the Horrible was playing out West, breaking a record he had no right to break, while Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, upstanding heroes, were out East to accept their Hall of Fame plaques, and being as gentlemanly as Aaron. Of course, we don't really know those two, do we? Cal entered the hall on the back of his ponderous consecutive games feat and Gwynn had those great averages year after year, and both were innocuous. For now, anyway.

But weren't we all saying the same thing about Kirby Puckett when he was inducted? Or Mark McGwire when he broke Roger Maris' record? Really, folks, we all knew about steroids back then, and good God, the guy was huge. Both men gave their all on the field, and "gave back to the community", in the parlance of Mr. Bremer this afternoon. Later, both fell from grace. For all we know, the same could be coming down the pike for Gwynn and Ripken.

But at least, to guys like Dick Bremer, they aren't Barry Bonds.

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