The story is of Barry Bond's record breaking home run ball. Actually the story is about the fate of the historic ball and the path it took to get where it is today.
I am a huge baseball fan. I played lots of sports when I was younger but baseball was far and away my favorite. I played park ball, I played for my high school team, I played on days when I wasn't required to play. I loved it. There is a reason it is America's past time. It's a great sport but it some how comes along with a bit magic, and bit of history, and most importantly of all a heap of weirdness and quirkiness unlike any other sport.
I would play in the back yard for hours with my best friend, Hanan. We would try to invent and perfect new pitches or we would turn pretend double plays. We dreamed in baseball terms. I wanted to be Wade Boggs.
The point to all this is....we were highly invested in not just our specific team or our game that day, we were invested in the concept of baseball.
I am confident we were not alone in this.
This is why the story of Barry Bonds ball always makes me smile.
Let me say from the jump, I don't hate Barry Bonds. I don't ridicule him, because I am not sure about all the circumstances surrounding his part of baseball lore. I wasn't in his shoes. But the story involving his home run ball makes me feel good about baseball. I mean it makes me feel good about the concept of baseball. It makes me have hope for tradition. Hope for tradition in general.
This is what happened: Barry Bonds had a career that is awe inspiring. There is no doubt that Barry Bonds is one of the greatest to play the sport of baseball. You would think that would make me love him since I love the sport so dearly. ......you'd think wrongly.
Firstly Barry played for the Giants (which instantly made him an enemy to my Braves), strike one (pun intended). Additionally, he was notoriously a diva and a person hated by his teammates (this doesn't make him an enemy of baseball by itself because there are many of the baseball greats that were known to be not so cuddly. But he supposedly went to extremes. Word on the street is he insisted on having his own locker room because he didn't even want to be around his team mates before or after the game. That's pretty bad. ) So the guy's an epic asshole. There have been other baseball heroes who were assholes. I'll let that slide. But what I and many other baseball fans refused to let slide was the fact that he obviously used performance enhancing drugs as he approached the biggest record in the sports' history.
The Juicing era of baseball was a dark scourge on the face of our beloved sport. Through the many books, rumors and yes a congressional hearing we have learned that many of the players we looked up to were indeed cheating. Sure they still had to possess amazing work ethic and skill to be good at baseball. They cheated to go from good to great.
And Barry was in the very very small group of the most egregious offenders. He went from being a fit, slightly muscular guy (I'll say the Ted Williams, DiMaggio fame) to looking like a cartoon. Barry's muscles had muscles. His skull had muscles. It was freakish. The guy looked like a marvel comic character.
As I have said , he was far from being the only person juicing. It seems to have been the norm. For this reason, I don't like bashing Barry too terribly bad. However stack on the fact that he was apparently the biggest jerk he could possibly be , AND the most important of all........he was closing in on the most heralded of all records, the homerun record, and you have yourself baseball villain numero uno.
Barry Bonds, went on to surpass Hank Aaron's record(He was passing the Mobile, AL hero....yet another reason to not like Bonds) as the person to have hit the most home runs in a career EVER (Aaron had 755, Bonds hit 756.....and continued to eventually hit 762).
This is important.
This bothered me. This bothered Hanan. This bothered people like us all over the nation that are passionate about baseball. Sure there had been cheaters, as a matter of fact there had been cheaters that were the "faces of the sport" for a decade or so. But to have the person who would obviously be put into the Hall Of Fame as the Best Power Hitter to ever live be a cheater.....that was hard to swallow.
But what could be done as a fan of baseball? Nothing.
In steps fashion designer, Mark Ecko.
I don't know ANYTHING about Mark Ecko, other than the fact I've worn a couple of his shirts, and I'm guessing he likes rhinos.
But he must either be a huge baseball fan and felt wronged like the rest of us, or he must just have so much money he doesn't know what to do with it all.
Well either way, he spent a lot of his money ($752,467.00 to be exact) to purchase the historic home run ball at an online auction.
Then he let the fans decide the fate of the ball.
Ecko made an online poll and let the people who care the most about the game vote. He let the fans vote.
The options were:
- 1) put the ball in the Hall of Fame as is
- 2) have the ball destroyed
- 3) have the ball shot into space
- 4) have it permanently emblazoned with an * to denote that it shouldn't count as the actual record and THEN be put in the Hall of Fame
The fans spoke. The votes were tallied and the fans of baseball decided to add the asterisk and send it to the Hall of Fame. So that is exactly what Mark Ecko had done.
I think this decision matters for many reasons. One, (because Mark Ecko's contribution allowed it) the fans spoke their opinion of how their sport shall be viewed by future generations. It shows that the lovers of baseball thought the actions of Bonds (and all other juicers) made them a footnote in the history of baseball as opposed to the players that naturally played the sport without "cheating". And again it showed that baseball is quirky and weird even in the Hal of Fame and record books. And it also kinda slightly made a statement about being a team player.
Barry Bonds had a bout with karma and his legacy will forever be tarnished.
Now I almost feel bad about badly Bonds got treated , but the fact that a people stood together and gave the middle finger to something they disbelieved in, makes me value what's left of baseball.
The baseball fans stood together and said we do not want to be represented by people who play and act in the way Barry did. That's a huge statement and it makes me love our weird sport even more.