You’ve got to love San Francisco. What other city in the world would take such glee in thumbing its nose at everyone else by embracing, non-judgmentally and so fully, its hero Barry Bonds, as exemplified by the 42,000 screaming fans that celebrated Bonds’ 756th home run, establishing an all-time baseball record Tuesday.
San Francisco is the city that doesn’t ask questions. For a century and a half, it has been the port of last resort for countless thousands who’d been hounded out of their home towns for any number of reasons. The city (spelled with a capital “C” by the locals) takes pride in that. And well it should. More emotionally moving than the big home run Tuesday night was the fan reaction, knowing how fiercely it stood in the face of grumbling critics and skeptics everywhere else.
No wonder Bonds, after the home run, called San Francisco his “family.” In true families, love is not conditional. Just as “love is as love does,” according to Forrest Gump, so it is with families. True families are those who act like them.
Good for San Francisco. If it wasn’t our favorite big town before, it is now. We don’t care what any “GQ” surveys say, the burgers at Original Joe’s are the best anywhere. The smells at Fisherman’s Wharf are what heaven smells like. And the ballpark with McCovey Cove, formerly known as the China Basin, in place of a right field grandstand, is the most creative and colorful new generation structure in the land.
It’s hard to fathom that a man with the achievements of Barry Bonds has been cast as an underdog battling a relentless blizzard of contempt and disdain. Henry Aaron’s own elegant statement aired in the stadium record-setting home run stands in stark contrast to Bond’s bleating critics. Unlike the shameful, equivocating comments of Commissioner Bud Selig, Aaron’s were filled with the inner, personal knowledge of the kind of burdensome pilgrimage Bonds endured. Henry Aaron knew hate up close and personal when he eclipsed Babe Ruth’s record. It was a hate dripping with vile racism. Having lived through that, Aaron stood by his brother, Barry Bonds, with his noble statement Tuesday.
Anyone wanting an asterisk by Bonds’ home run total needs to go back and insist on the same for every spitball, every jar of Vaseline, every corked bat and every diet pill or “upper” that has ever played a role on a ball field, much less every overly-distorted ballpark or unduly windy day. It was sleazy elements among baseball’s brass that not-so-subtly overlooked the use of performance-enhancing substances by players in an attempt to recover the sport’s popularity following the disastrous mid-1990s strike. If anyone wants to point fingers, it should be at them. No one hates lily-white Mark McGwire or the other sluggers who fell for this ploy to enjoy a brief era as almost godlike figures. But maybe that’s because they didn’t do what Barry Bonds has. It’s Bonds’ unquestioned greatness that has been his unique burden.