HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
July 16, 2006

Two greats share an outfield

By Matt Kane

Maybe it’s just me, but all the talk of Barry Bonds leading up to and into last week’s Major League Baseball all-star game actually had me turing off coverage of a game I love more than any other.

Actually, most of the media outlets weren’t even focusing their stories on Bonds as a baseball player. Even though ESPN would flash graphics with home run numbers and other statistics, the stories always revolved around the controversy of HOW Bonds achieved those numbers, and not just that he achieved them.

How many stories about whether baseball commissioner Bud Selig or current home run champion Hank Aaron should attend Bonds’ record-setting day do we need?

To answer my own question, none.

There was one story involving Bonds that every media outlet I watch, read, or listened to just prior to the all-star game missed. That Bonds, probably the best National League player during the 1990s, was playing in the outfield with Ken Griffey Jr., probably the best American League player during that decade.

Maybe it’s just because Bonds and Griffey were the superstars I grew up watching and collecting as a kid. There was, indeed, controversy surrounding Bonds in the ‘90s, but the controversy had to do with who was better — Bonds or Griffey?

Not knowing whether either player will play in another Midseason Classic led me to appreciate the fact that they were in the same outfield in front of the nation last Tuesday.

Consider this: Bonds, with 751 home runs through Thursday, and Griffey, with 586 home runs, have rounded the bases a combined 1,337 times. That’s over 91 miles of trotting around the infield of a finely groomed baseball field.

Sandwiched between Bonds and Griffey at the start of the all-star game was Carlos Beltran, of the New York Mets. Beltran has 219 home runs in 10 seasons, which brings the home run total of the starting National League outfield to 1,556, or 106 miles.

In a story I watched about Willie Mays during the all-star break, Mays said one of his favorite all-star games was in 1966, when he played between Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente at the original Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

When these three future hall of famers entered that all-star game, they had a combined 1,024 home runs. Mays had 473, Aaron had 424, and Clemente had 127.

When the careers of all three came to an end, that home run total climbed to 1,655.

Aaron finished with 755, Mays with 660, and Clemente with 240.

And let’s not forget, these three did more than just hit a few home runs. Aaron, Mays, and Clemente combined for 27 gold gloves (Mays 12, Clemente 12, Aaron 3), four MVP awards (Mays 2, Clemente 1, Aaron 1), seven batting titles (Mays 1, Clemente 4, Aaron 2) and 53 all-star games (Mays 20, Clemente 12, Aaron 21).

I cannot, in any way, put Beltran in the group with Aaron, Mays and Clemente, but Bonds and Griffey, absolutely, can be compared with the all-time greats of the game.

Bonds and Griffey have 18 gold gloves (Bonds 8, Griffey 10), eight MVP awards (Bonds 7, Griffey 1) and 27 all-star games (Bonds 14, Griffey 13), and Bonds has two batting titles. He hit .370 in 2002 and .362 in 2004.

Thanks to the countless stories about how Bonds achieved all his accomplishments, it is hard to ignore the speculation and concentrate on the games and how fun it is to watch great athletes, like Bonds and Griffey, play the great game of baseball.

It seems evident by the attendance numbers this season that people are, again, loving the game of baseball. If fans are believing the players are cheating, they sure aren’t showing it at the box office.

Maybe, like myself, fans are becoming calloused to all the negative speculation, and, instead, are appreciating how good the players, like Bonds and Griffey, are.

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