More than any other sport, baseball is a game of numbers. Through the decades, the game has remained the same, allowing fans to compare players’ performances across generations.
Some of those performances, those numbers, likely will never be matched — namely, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, pitcher Nolan Ryan’s seven career no-hitters, Ricky Henderson’s 1,406 career stolen bases and Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,632 consecutive games played.
But the greatest number, some say the most revered statistic in all of sports, is 755. That was the career home run record held by Hank Aaron — at least it was until Saturday. San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds has tied Aaron and awaits his coronation as the new home run king; however, many baseball fans find his assault on the record book to be an insult to the game. Allegations of steroid use have dogged Bonds the past few years, despite his public denials and the fact he has never tested positive for them. He is still under investigation as to whether he perjured himself when he testified in 2003 that he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.
Like him or not, believe him or not, Bonds will own the most glorified record in U.S. sports. For his critics, we like the approach pitched by Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly in the magazine’s July 23 issue:
“Send rabbits’ feet, four-leaf clovers and two-headed pennies to Alex Rodriguez (500 career homers, as of Sunday) and Ken Griffey Jr. (589; they’re the two players most likely to challenge Bonds’ home run mark), letting them know that you’re pulling for them to pass Bonds like he’s a hitchhiker in an orange jumpsuit.”
Once Bonds gets passed, he’s past.