Saturday, June 30, 2007

Babe Hank and Barry

There is a certain controversy these days about the eminent breaking of the lifetime home run record. Currently held by Hank Aaron, the record is threatened by Barry Bonds. Before Mr. Aaron held the title, Babe Ruth was the owner.
Controversy about the Lifetime Home Run Record is nothing new. In 1974, when Hank Aaron was about to break the record, the admirers of Babe Ruth said that Mr. Ruth had fewer at bats than Mr. Aaron did. Many attributed this criticism to racism, with a black man besting a white man's record.
The current controversy is two fold. There are allegations that Mr. Bonds took steroids to make him stronger, and that he "cheated". There are also some concerns about the overall personality of Mr. Bonds.
I do not think steroid use is a big deal. Ballplayers are abusing their bodies to perform, and if they take the risk of using steroids, that is their business. This is not a majority opinion. But I suspect there are those who agree with me.
A good question to ask is, would Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron have used steroids if they had the chance? Mr. Ruth was a wildman, who drank during prohibition and was known for his undisciplined behavior. Mr. Aaron played in an era where steroid use was not as common as it is today. The answer to the first question is (Mr. Ruth) Probably and (Mr. Aaron) Who Knows.
While you are keeping hypocrisy statistics, Mr. Aaron and Mr. Bonds played on television, where beer commercials were constant. While alcohol is legal, it is a very damaging drug, deadly and addictive. But it is legal, and any ballplayer who plays on television promotes its use. This is both steroid users and steroid non users.
As for personalities, there is the widely circulated story about the college team that Mr. Bonds played on voting 22-3 to kick him off the team. Apparently, at the very least he does not charm sportswriters.
In 1917, Babe Ruth was suspended for hitting an umpire. He was known for his outlandish behavior throughout his career. It should also be noted that he played in an era when the press did not scrutinize the behavior of players as much as they do today. How would today's reality show media have dealt with Babe Ruth?
On a local talk show, I heard a caller say that Hank Aaron was a mean racist who would just as soon cut your throat as look at you. While I had never heard this said out loud before, I had heard hints about his personality over the years.
Mr. Aaron is the only one of the three that I have met, however briefly. In the summer of 1965, the Milwaukee Braves came to Atlanta to play an exhibition game at the newly finished Stadium, which would be their home the next season. After the game, Daddy and I were allowed to wait outside the clubhouse, to get autographs from the players as they left. Joe Torre saw the crowd, hid behind a truck and made a quick getaway. Hank Aaron came out, patiently signing every autograph requested of him, while smoking a cigarette.
The fact is, all three men played in different eras. Babe Ruth never played at night, never flew to California, and only played against white players...many of the most talented players of his era were in the Negro League. Hank Aaron played before free agency, interleague play, the DH, and widespread use of steroids. The only way to determine who is the home run champion is to count how many homers are hit, and award the prize to the man who hits the most.

Which of the three made the most money? Barry Bonds, by a wide margin. He played in the free agent era.
Babe Ruth had the best line about his salary. In 1930 Ruth was asked by a reporter what he thought of his yearly salary of $80,000 being more than President Hoover's $75,000. He replied " yea, but I had a better year than he did"
Lest anyone worry, Hank Aaron owns a BMW dealership now, and is doing very well.
Who played on the most teams to win a World Series? Babe Ruth 7, Hank Aaron 1, Barry Bonds 0.
While the career of Babe Ruth is before my time, I have heard about the impact he had on the game. He was one of the first sports superstars, as America emerged from the carnage of World War One as a prosperous superpower. When he broke the single season home run record, he hit 29 homers. The next year, (1920, his first year with the New York Yankees) he hit 54. There is a possibility of a livelier baseball.
Babe Ruth captured the imagination of America like few personalities ever have. Playing in New York ( which dominated the press) did not hurt. He was a man of his is unlikely than anyone could have that kind of impact on today's superstar saturated America. While his record has been broken, his place in the history of baseball is the same.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home