Bonds will be in record book

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

So what? He now sits second.

Big whoop you say.

Barry Bonds never will appear in the major-league record book for passing Babe Ruth with homer No. 715.

Well, Bonds will be in the baseball record book -- most home runs hit by a left-handed hitter -- whatever the number may be when he finishes.

Whether he passes Hank Aaron's career home run mark and whether it will be as a DH in an American League park is a question for down the road.

The most famous number associated with a home run is not 715 ... of which Bonds now has. Nor is it 755, the number of career homers Aaron hit. It's not 70, the number of homers Mark McGwire hit in 1998 to to surpass Roger Maris' single-season record of 61 homers.

The magical number was, is and shall remain 714, Ruth's career total because it was there so long. It had legs. Still has.

This is not a knock on Aaron's accomplishment -- it's like Lou Gehrig's 2,130 consecutive-game streak stands out more so than Cal Ripken's 2,632 streak.

Ruth was the first player to have a 30, 40 and 50 home run season and he had them all in the 1920s. His prowess at the dinner table, at booze cans and in the batter's box captured the imagination of fans.

What kind of excitement was there when Ruth hit his 37th homer in 1921? It was his 139th career homer and it enabled him to take the top spot from Roger Connor, who played 18 seasons, mostly with the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals until 1897.

When Bonds tied Ruth with his 714th in Oakland the Giants dugout didn't empty, as the Atlanta Braves' did when Aaron hit his 714th in 1974.

It's too bad such a treasured milestone in baseball has to be sullied by such a sullen player.

We sat with Bonds in the lobby of a Seattle hotel in 2001, along with writers Bob Nightengale and Tom Keegan, for more than two hours and found him engaging, with a sharp sense of humour, a keen respect for history of the game and a great storyteller.

Much different from the Bonds you now see under the lights at a post-game news conference.

Hours after that meeting he homered, closer Robb Nen coughed up a lead in the ninth and someone asked, "Well you hit one homer, why didn't you hit two?" Bonds snapped and was back to being Bonds. In small groups he was fine, but in front of a group, well he struggled big time.

Long before steroid accusations and leaked grand jury testimonies we thought he was a Hall of Famer. We still think so.

It's too bad that Bonds never could enjoy all he has: The fame, the records, the success.

There are people like that in baseball. There probably are people like that in your office: They are miserable if they can't be miserable.

Consider the feeding frenzy produced in Houston when pitcher Russ Springer plunked Bonds recently.

Writer A says before the pitch: "Here comes No. 714."

Writer B whispers: "Nope, Springer told me before the game he was going to hit him."

When Springer throws five pitches at Bonds, before hitting him, someone down the row phones ESPN with the news.

After the game, Astros closer Brad Lidge says into a phone, "You did the right thing, Spring. I couldn't agree with you more. I'm behind you 100%."

Lidge had to be talking about Springer throwing at Bonds, right? Well, a freelance reporter told the conversation to a writer and a paper ran with it. The day after they ran a correction.

Lidge was talking to Springer but he was telling him he was doing the right thing to leave the park and drive to Louisiana to be with his wife for her emergency surgery.

Bonds is guilty of being an arrogant jerk and as a result there's not much public sympathy.

After all, three years ago at the all-star game in Chicago he knocked Ruth during a media session saying he wanted to wipe out Ruth's stats but leave Aaron's records alone.

Now when it's brought up he says that it was contrived by the media.

"As important as a milestone as passing Ruth is, I'll pay closer attention to when he gets closer to Aaron," said Raymond Doswell, curator of the Negro Leagues museum.

"I wish people weren't so rough on him, but at the same time you mess with fire there is going to be smoke. He brought it on himself."


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