Shannon Knight dropped me an e-mail this week to talk about Barry Bonds and the pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record.
Scott, as Barry Bonds approaches Hank Aaron’s home run record I thought I would offer the blog a few observations about this feat. Just short of my 10th birthday in 1974 I watched Hank Aaron hit 715 on TV. I honestly didn’t think the record would last until 2007 but history is about to happen. Regardless of one's feelings towards Barry Bonds and his alleged use of performance enhancing drugs he not the sole reason this record will be broken. In fact certain circumstances through the course of baseball history is 756 even the magic number.
Aaron might not have even been the record holder had the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1959. The cozy short left field of the Polo Grounds in New York provided Mays the opportunity to rack up homers. In 1961 Candlestick Park was opened and the fences were set way back and Aaron slowly caught and past Mays for the lead among active players.
In 1966 the Braves moved to Atlanta. The new Fulton County stadium (known as the launching pad) provided Aaron an easy avenue to hit more homers. Of course Babe Ruth had a 289 foot right field chip shot that allowed him to set the record in Yankee Stadium. Ted Williams could have easily hit 800 home runs had he not given 4 years to fight in WW2 during the prime of his career. He had 500 plus and missed 4 seasons. Going back to Bonds, even if he used steroids Bonds had help not afforded those previously mentioned.
1. Bats- since 1997 players have switched to hickory and maple bats. These bats are dipped in a hardening solution making them as good as an aluminum bat.
2. More teams equals less quality pitching. With vast expansion of baseball there are more teams than ever meaning more pitchers that probably don’t belong in the majors. I failed to mention that pitchers are the main users of steroids. What you get is a hard throwing pitcher who isn’t seasoned enough in locate his pitches.
3. Baseballs – Sparky Anderson once said he could rub a baseball and move the seams around. Try that on today’s baseball. The new baseballs are much harder . Put this together and what do you have? A stronger player swinging a harder bat facing a young hard throwing pitcher with a rock for a ball. The result Home Run. The year Aaron broke Ruth’s record 1290 home runs were hit that season. Last year 2500 were hit. The only thing Bonds has done for the cherished record is lessened it’s importance. He had help and it cheapened the record. Some will say he is the greatest slugger of all-time. Consider this fact about Aaron , throw out his 755 homers and he still has 3000 hits. Add 180 home runs to any player that’s ever played and Aaron still has the lead in total bases. Yes I will watch Barry Bonds nightly until he breaks the Aarons record only to know that the home run record is not one of the great records in sports because throughout the history of baseball some intangible has played to much of a role in it’s setting.
Shannon Knight , baseball fan for 37 years