Aaron is and always will be the home-run king
MILWAUKEE When Hank Aaron was here last May to give the commencement speech at Concordia University, he told reporters beforehand, “I still consider myself the home-run king.”
Aaron said it with a laugh, almost in a self-depreciative way, because that’s the kind of gentleman he is, humble, gracious and noble. The anti-Barry Bonds, if you will.
In his dignified manner, the Hammer would rather let others talk about his place in history, so it was good to hear Aaron speak the truth on behalf of himself on that lovely afternoon in Mequon. And the truth it is, because no matter what the record book documents, 755 remains the rightful number for all who value honor.
Aaron is and always will be the home-run king.
So, relax, Mr. Commissioner. There is no need to wield the eraser as if it were a 34-ounce Louisville Slugger or sling asterisks like a shortstop coming across the bag. The most important person in this mini-drama created by others knows precisely where he stands, and that is enough.
But if you’ve been around Milwaukee for very long, you know Bud Selig. You know how this kind of thing tears at him, absolutely rips at his gut. He has been very close to Aaron for a half-century, and on some level the commissioner might even feel guilt over this whole thing. If baseball had gotten rampant steroid use under control earlier, maybe Aaron would not have lost the record.
Of course, there is no need for Selig to feel that way. He did what he could and now the game has an anti-drug policy. But it is too late for Aaron and Roger Maris, and some of those emotions may have boiled out for Selig in recent days with the sight of Bonds entering a courthouse and Alex Rodriguez, the player most likely to surpass the imaginary 762, admitting to steroid use after he was fingered.
So now Selig has been hinting at the possibility of restoring Aaron as the legitimate holder of baseball’s most hallowed record, which would be within his powers and rights should Bonds be convicted. It would be a nice gesture, but unnecessary because, again, real baseball fans and humanitarians alike know the score.
And, anyway, Aaron recently said he didn’t want Selig to amend the record book.
“In fairness to everybody, I just don’t see how you really can do a thing like that and just say somebody isn’t the record holder anymore, and let’s go back to the way it was,” Aaron told Terence Moore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Would Aaron like to have the record again? What do you think? But he’s too statesmanlike to do anything other than take the high road with Bonds, just as he did last year with his comments at Concordia. Moreover, Aaron protected his old pal on the slippery-slope issue that the commissioner always raises as a reason why history should be left alone. If the home-run record is changed, where does the editing stop, with all the cheating that has occurred?
In his heart, Selig would like to change the record for his friend. But as commissioner, he knows the problems it could cause. He’s conflicted, and that’s OK because it shows how much he cares for Aaron and the game. But it’s also perfectly fine for the commissioner to drop the matter because, more than anyone, Selig knows what we all know here in Milwaukee and Wisconsin and everywhere else the Hammer has touched people with his humanity.
Aaron is and always will be the king.