Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hall of Shame and Blame

Read The Onion's take on Barry Bond's "record."


hobie said...

I need to make two statements before I say what I have to say: I love baseball; and I don’t love Barry Bonds. Come to think of it, I love you, too, Groothuis. But this issue is threatening to turn Planet ‘Mudge into a bad sports blog.

I read the Onion piece and now believe that many of the people who hate Bonds and what he has allegedly done to accomplish his place in history have shown themselves to have a very small understanding of the larger history of baseball. If the history of this game only extended back to the 70s and the work of Hank Aaron, maybe they would have a point that the game has now fallen and can’t get up. But the fact is that Cooperstown is full of bronzed mementos of “heroes” who cheated. Spitballs, bribery, gambling, Vaseline, pine tar, sharpened spikes, brawling, cork, and, more to its shame, undeniable and indelible racism – these are all dirty secrets of baseball’s past that critics have overlooked in vilifying Bonds as the ultimate villain. I have yet to read any of these professional or amateur pundits talk about removing Ty Cobb from the Hall for his incredible acts of malice and racism displayed in performance, nor Gaylord Perry for his baseball doctoring, not the entire group of pitchers from before the 1920s who attained their records by misshaping baseballs before they pitched them, nor the enshrined executives who conspired to cheat players financially and exempt entire races from the major leagues.

It might behoove some of today’s Doomsday prophets of the “divine” sport to reflect a little more on the game’s past; in fact, I would recommend a viewing of Ken Burns’ Baseball, available at many local libraries, as a way to see if considering the details of the game’s earlier eras might inform their understanding of recent events. Burns is certainly a rabid lover of the game, but at least he has a perspective of some of the more profane aspects of its evolution (is that still a word I can use on this blog? It seems right; I’m keeping it in). Reading discussions of baseball’s sacredness is like listening to descriptions of America’s being founded as a Christian nation; it might be true, but it leaves you wondering if these accolades ignore other, less savory aspects of its history. I still love America, but sometimes I love it in spite of itself. I feel the same about baseball.

I am not calling on Americans to enshrine Bonds today. I’m not calling on baseball to ignore steroids. I respect Bud Selig’s tacit responses to Bond’s home runs as actions of appropriate ambivalence. And Bonds’ actions do not diminish in any way the more unbelievable record held for 33 years by Hank Aaron, one of the game’s true heroes. But I’m also not critical of the tens of thousands of fans at San Francisco who witnessed history and were awed by it. Bonds’ attainment of this record is not the downfall of baseball. If baseball so far has not sunk under the weight of its past, it won’t be sunk by this, either.

One more thing: Pete Rose and Joe Jackson are out of the Hall on the basis of evidence. I am prepared to patiently wait to judge Bonds’ performance and career until the evidence is in from years of allegations. Can we agree to do this, or should we judge submit Bonds career to another YouTube-standard of evaluation?

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Do not fear. CC will not become a sports blog of any stripe.

Tom Hinkle said...

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be said that this link in NOT from "The Union." It's from "The Onion" which is a satirical website. It has "articles" like "U.S. To Re-Hang Saddam Hussein" and "Local Man Vows Revenge Against Atlantic Ocean." What they wrote about Bonds was satirical, in other words, they weren't being totally serious.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

I know it was satire. It was a typo.