Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Love Me, Hate Me

What an odd situation Barry Bonds created by breaking one of sports’ treasured records, baseball’s lifetime home run record. Even Major League Baseball’s Commissioner, Bud Selig, couldn’t bring himself to attend the game last night in which Bonds hit homer number 756. “Cheaters never prosper”, but Bonds enters the records books ahead of Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714). And not only is Bonds a known cheater (steroids/human growth hormone) but apparently he's an unpleasant human being.
Jeff Pearlman took on the unenviable task of writing a biography of the notoriously anti-media Bonds, resulting in his excellent book Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero. Pearlman makes it clear that Bonds was the real deal, a special athlete headed for the Hall of Fame before he began taking drugs in 1999. An epilogue entitled "The Debate of Immortality" ably discusses the issues surrounding drugs, records and the Hall of Fame.
For the story of a real home run hero, pick up Hank Aaron's autobiography, I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story. Each chapter is introduced by writer Lonnie Wheeler, followed by Aaron's memories of particular times in his life, from his Alabama childhood to the start of his career with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League to his [drug-free] triumph with the Atlanta Braves on April 8, 1974, when he beat Babe Ruth's home run record.
You can't exactly call Babe Ruth "drug free" but the booze and junk food he consumed certainly weren't performance-enhancing! The original home run hero was larger than life, changing baseball and American life. A recent biography, The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth by Leigh Montville shows Ruth's impact on American society of the time.


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