Herald Journal Columns
May 15, 2006, Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch

Remember when baseball was baseball?

By Matt Kane

With Barry Bonds standing at the heals of Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time career home runs list (through May 12), it leaves many to wonder if the knees that have carried Bonds 256,680 feet around the base paths for his 713 long balls can hold up for the 15,120 more feet it would take to match Hank Aaron’s 755 home runs.

If his joints have it in them to carry Bonds’ 6-2, 230-pound frame to Aaron they will certainly have to also bear the unmeasurable pressure surrounding his road there.

Skeptics and so called baseball purists get nauseous when considering the idea that Hammerin’ Hanks record could fall to a guy whose means of getting this far are questioned daily.

With constant talk of steroids in baseball, it is difficult to objectively look at the possibility of having a new home run king.

Bonds certainly hasn’t helped himself with his “Bonds on Bonds” look into his life, but wouldn’t it be nice to watch Bonds’ road to what some consider the most hollowed record through pure baseball spectacles.

Imagine if there was no steroid talk in today’s game of baseball and think how excited fans and the nation would be over the thought of seeing history made.
It’s been awhile since fans have been able to watch a game without the word “steroids” arising. Somewhere and sometime during every Major League Baseball game played today, something related to cheating in baseball surfaces.

Remember when all fans complained about was ticket prices and how much the players make?

The last true milestone I can remember that was set without any thoughts of fraud or cheating is in 1995 when Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak.

When the banner on the warehouse beyond right field at Camden Yards turned from 2,130 to 2,131, the hairs on the back of every true baseball fan stood on end.

No steroid, human growth hormone or corked bat could give a player any advantage when it came to stepping on the field every day.

By far, this is the most underrated record in baseball history. Even if Ripken was a mediocre player instead of a 19-time American League all-star the feat of going to work and contributing for 2,632 straight games is unimaginable for the common blue collar worker. That’s why I think Ripken’s record is the most impressive of all time.

Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak or Ted Williams’ .406 batting average are often thought of as the most difficult marks to match, but these two statistics are at least feasible.

Every time a player steps up to bat, he has the chance at starting a hitting streak.

You could say the same about a player beginning a games-played streak as well, but how many baseball players enter their career saying they plan on playing in every game for two decades?

The Yankees Hideki Matsui played in 518 consecutive major league games and 1,250 straight before that in Japan, but with one attempt at a sliding catch Thursday, his streak ended — not even close to Ripken.

If Bonds catches and passes Aaron, I hope, but seriously doubt, baseball fans will appreciate the fall of a great mark that has stood for 30 years.

Talking baseball about baseball and only baseball. Wouldn’t that be nice?


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