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Baseball is no longer a numbers game for this fan

Posted at 10:50 AM on August 8, 2007 by Steve Rudolph

56. 61. 755. 2130. I had them memorized before the multiplication table. Today, just one remains relevant.

I still remember a school report I wrote in the sixth grade about baseball’s five greatest sluggers (Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Harmon Killebrew). I loved the home run and my favorite players were the power hitters. As a kid I could recite the career home run totals for the top ten on the list.

Barry Bonds now sits atop the list of the game’s greatest sluggers and I simply don’t care.

When Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire battled to surpass Roger Maris’ mark of 61 home runs in a season, I was glued to the set each night cheering them on.

When Cal Ripken’s 2131st consecutive game became official after five innings, I marveled at his ability to eclipse Lou Gehrig’s feat and applauded just as if I had been at Camden Yards that magical night.

Any time a major league hitter is able to string together a streak of more than 20 games I follow each game’s box scores hoping he might be able to make a run at DiMaggio’s record. Ken Landreaux’s 31-game streak still ranks among my favorite moments in Twins history.

So why did I ignore Barry Bond’s chase of the game’s most treasured mark?

I’ve been trying to figure it out myself. He’s truly an amazing athlete and because of his ability to hit for average, power, steal bases (in his early days) and field his position well; he might be the best ballplayer ever. But by all accounts, he’s a hall-of-fame jerk.

Baseball has been fortunate throughout it’s history that nearly all of its greats have been ambassadors for the game, cheered universally in every ballpark they visited. The aloof Bonds who has a personal TV in the clubhouse that only he is allowed to watch, doesn't have many fans on his own team. And after he retires, I can’t imagine him giving anything back to the game.

So maybe it was fitting that on the same day that Bonds hit 755, Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player to reach 500. This baseball fan is hoping A-Rod stays healthy and productive and gives the next generation of young fans a number and a record worth remembering.

August 2007
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