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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  June 3, 2007
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Play two, Hank.

Hank Aaron says heís probably going to be playing golf that day. "That day" would be the one wherein Barry Bonds breaks the all-time career home run record now held by Mr. Aaron.

According to an AP story, when asked about his decision to not be present when the record is broken, Aaron replied: "I traveled for 23 years, and I just get tired of traveling. I'm not going to fly to go see somebody hit a home run, no matter whether it is Barry or Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig or whoever it may be. I'm not going any place. I wish him all the luck in the world."

Lord, I do admire that man.

Pure class. No trash talk. No finger pointing. Just a simple statement that he wasnít going to show and draw whatever conclusions you want.

For the record, Iím old enough to remember when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruthís record for home runs in a single season.

What made that summer even more exciting was the fact that Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris - both Yankees - pursued that record until, late in the season, injuries put Mantle out of the race.

The coverage was near total. You could follow the chase by picking up almost any newspaper or magazine. There were projections of how many home runs Mantle and Maris could hit by the end of the season. There were arguments over whether playing 162 games instead of 154 should be a consideration. There were debates about the number of "at bats" Mantle and Maris would have compared to the season when Ruth hit 60.

"Better Homes and Gardens" might not have given it the coverage it deserved, but their sports department has always been a bit light.

In short, it was a memorable ride and I remember literally jumping up and down when Maris hit number 61.

More than a decade later, I remember sitting in front of my television set and clapping when they showed Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruthís career home run record.

If you love baseball, you understand why. These were truly memorable moments when great athletes broke seemingly unreachable records.

I wish I could say that I did the same when Mark McGwire broke Roger Marisís single season home run record. I wish I could say that I enjoyed watching him and Sammy Sosa chase that record, but I canít.

I canít because of all of the questions about the use of performance enhancing drugs in major league baseball.

I donít know if these players used them. I have no way of knowing. I do, however, know that Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, and Hank Aaron were never bulked up giants. They looked pretty much like youíd expect athletes to look minus the super hero muscles seen only (during their playing days) in comic books.

Still, are todayís players great?

To me, anyone whoís made it to the majors is a great player. I couldnít run, field, pitch, or hit well enough to break into the starting lineup of my high school team. These guys regularly do or did these things in such a manner as to be paid millions for their talents. Of course theyíre great.

But, apparently, all of the greatness of being part of major league baseball wasnít enough because many began using drugs to better their numbers.

And that spoiled the game for me.

I didnít cheer Ė or, for that matter, even care Ė when the single season home run record was most recently broken. There were just too many indications that something other than natural ability was in play.

Barry Bonds is about to break the all-time record for career home runs and, again, I donít care.

Apparently Iím not alone here because I saw a clip from a sports program wherein a fan at a Giants game raised a sign for Barry Bonds to read. That sign read "Babe Ruth did it on beer and hot dogs. What did you use?"

And that about sums it up for me.

Ruth, Maris, and Aaron did it on natural ability alone, which makes their achievements stand out all the more.

So if Hank Aaron wants to play golf that day, I understand.

Hell, I hope he plays twice just to stay away from all of the hoopla and hype thatíll occur.

And I think itíd be a great if, "that day," Bud Selig Ė the Commissioner of Baseball Ė chose to join Hank on the links.

Because that, gentle reader, would be whatís known as a grand gesture.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2007 by Larry Simoneaux
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