I HANG UP. Then redial Dr. Scott's house. I need to talk to Little Bonds. He tells me he hears kids saying he uses steroids when he socks one out, so he knows how annoying that must be for Barry. He tells me about his Bonds screen saver, and how he removes his autographed Bonds ball, the one he won in a raffle, from a locked metal box and rubs it for good luck before games. "I hit two home runs and went 3 for 4 the first time I did it," he says. "Then I hid it in my suitcase so I could rub it before the state tournament, and I hit three more.
"I know he's done a bad thing. But he's worked so hard. The record shouldn't be taken away from him. He's doing the best he can. I'd love to see him hit 756. I'd go wild."
I CALL THE father of one of the smallest players in the bigs. I call Whitey Eckstein, wondering what it's like to be the father of a guy who's been told he needs to get bigger ever since he was a squirt. What it's like to be the parent of any major leaguer today, looking at your son when he comes home and wondering if, maybe....
No, says David Eckstein's father, you don't understand. The kid grew up in a house full of steroids, a home where a truck would pull up and unload 40 or 50 boxes of medications, solutions and dialysis equipment. The kid saw his sister Susan on her deathbed with diseased kidneys, then saw his mother save Susan's life by donating a kidney of her own, only for the family to find out within eight months that the kidneys of David's sister Christine and his brother Kenny were failing too. A kid who'd lived through all that wasn't about to let some little thing--like 5'6 3/4", 165 pounds, the dimensions of his body--keep him from his dream. Or even think of touching a steroid to achieve it.
Maybe it's time for ballplayers' parents, even those of big leaguers, to look harder at their sons and speak up. "The parents of major leaguers who are using steroids have to know it," says Whitey, a retired history teacher. "You can tell. The size. The acne. They must know."
Now it's Whitey's turn to have his kidneys shut down, to wait on eggshells for a donor, to live attached to a machine. What if his little guy--the Cardinals' new shortstop, an off-season free-agent acquisition from the Angels--comes home big? "He couldn't look me in the eye if he did," says Whitey. "I'd say, 'David, you're not my son. Stay away from me. You're not an Eckstein.'"
I FIND SOMEBODY Who's Doing Something. He's the co-owner of a sports bar and the son of a man born in Orestiada, Greece. Nondas Kalfas will offer free chocolate cake to every customer who turns his back to the 50 TV screens in the Varsity Ale House in Durham, N.C., when Bonds comes to the plate this season. The cake will be drizzled with sauce spelling the word LEGENDS to honor the men whose records were vandalized.
"I want kids to ask, 'Why are those men turning around?' and adults to have to explain," says Nondas. "What's it say about us if we don't take a stand in front of our kids? I'm hoping the idea takes off in sports bars all over the country. Because baseball is really mixed up right now. Nobody's telling the kids, 'Bonds cheated!'"
And when Jason Giambi bats? The Yankees' first baseman who has been overwhelmed by the fan support he's receiving in spring training? Free cake if you turn your back on him, too?
"Uhhh ... see what I mean about mixed up? You ask me about Giambi, and because I'm a Yankees fan, I pause. I don't know what to say."