much keeps to himself," Braves manager Bobby Cox says. "In the winter
I'll see him [at Turner Field] if I come in early. Hank will come in to work
out at five-thirty, six in the morning and leave."
Bonds, by contrast,
is desperate for the blessing from Aaron that will not come. He wanted Aaron
sitting next to Willie Mays, Bonds's godfather and Aaron's charismatic
contemporary, on the night he hit 756. Bonds so covets Aaron's acceptance that
on several occasions he has reached out to Selig, far from a Bonds ally
himself, for help in obtaining Aaron's support, if only to get Aaron to call
him. Aaron, however, has no plans to talk to Bonds. "No matter what Barry
Bonds does, Hank Aaron will be looked at as the home run king," says Moore,
who then cited a quote from a conversation he had on that subject with Harry
Edwards, the noted sports psychologist and sociologist. "You'll have the
standard and the standard bearer. Then you'll have the record and the record
holder. For the first time ever, they broadly will be acknowledged to be
totally different people."
In the same
conversation, Moore said, Edwards compared Bonds to O.J. Simpson: a free man,
but a prisoner of the widely accepted circumstantial evidence against him. The
home run record is whatever you wish to make of it.
is standing in the same location that Aaron stood in when he hit 715. Well,
those are brick pavers, not dirt, beneath the 10-year-old Andrew's feet. When
Fulton County Stadium was turned into a parking lot, the Braves placed pavers
where once there was dirt, forming the entire infield, pitching mound, foul
lines and warning track. You can stand in this reconstructed batter's box, gaze
upon the commemorative sign in left center and imagine the flight of 715 as
Aaron saw it. This spot is the Kitty Hawk of home run records.
should still be considered the home run king," says Andrew, who is from
Queens, white and here with his father, Michael, and friends as part of their
quest to visit all the major league ballparks. "My friends and I start
talking about baseball, and the conversation gets around to Barry Bonds. We
don't think he should have the record. I think they should take away his home
runs because he got so big using steroids. It's cheating."
Walking across the
paved infield is Ervin Ross, who is 18, black and not on any sort of
pilgrimage. He is a concessions employee at Turner Field. He knows about Aaron
from history books, video of home run 715 and a story from his supervisor at
work, a white man who told him Aaron once refused to give him an autograph.
"But that's when [Aaron] was going through those tough times," says
Ervin, in Aaron's defense. "It was understandable."
Ervin says he
believes it is true that Bonds used steroids, but the teenager does not seem
troubled by that. "He's a professional athlete," Ervin says by way of
explanation. "I would have to consider him the home run king, just because
he did it. It's good for black people. They can't take his home runs away, so
he's got the record."
How can two people
look at the same number and assign it a different value? Math isn't supposed to
be this ambiguous. The home run record isn't supposed to be this complicated.
Even when Barry Bonds holds the record, Hank Aaron can still be the people's
home run king--and 755 can still be the number in which we believe.