So, will Todd--who promotes his toy manufacturing company by buying and displaying significant home run balls struck by Sosa, McGwire and Bonds--keep buying if the balls keep flying? "Look," says the 44-year-old, who was born in Calgary, "I was a little skinny guy playing centerfield at Eastern Washington University, and if someone had said, 'Pop this and we'll get you a major league contract,' I'd have said, 'Gimme two' and not asked questions till I was bleeding from the rectum. That's why we've got to make sure there's never an adult there holding out those two pills. So if you've got a vial of urine on Bonds, I'm with you. Get as harsh as you need to be."
"But if Bonds is going for number 756 in Phoenix [where Todd lives], I'd probably try to buy most of the bleacher seats so I could get the ball. I'd be cheering. I'd be that blur you see in the background, and I'd get to talk s--- the rest of my life.
"Look, he'll pass Ruth early this season. There will be a cloud over it. But he may not pass Aaron until a year from now, and I don't know if we can work up that much moral outrage again. We'll be burned out, and people will say, 'Dammit, I'm just a baseball fan!' because ultimately, most us like to party.
"Baseball can't get pompous about it now. It turned a blind eye to its steroids problem. Fans can't start being hypocritical now. Same ones complaining today were standing and cheering for Sosa and Big Mac six and a half years ago. No one stopped to dissect the moment because we were in the moment. Right now we're out of the moment, but get to 755 and we'll be right back in it. We can all be moral again two days later."
So he won't even consider sending a message, keeping his wallet hand holstered at the auction for Bonds's 756th ball?
"Look, 756 isn't the ball I really want. I want the last one he hits. For me, it'll be simple--does Major League Baseball say it's a record ball? I'll be blinded by that one fact. You can have all your buts, but when you're done with your buts, I'll get my but: It's still the record ball."
I FOLLOW THE money: the agent who brokered the sale of all those tainted taters. That's Michael Barnes, a 34-year-old former altar boy and product of the same Jesuit education at Saint Louis University as Tim Forneris, Mr. 62.
"For me, it doesn't diminish that summer," says Michael, "because what I'll remember is me and my son together in front of the TV when he was four and him jumping off the sofa screaming whenever Big Mac or Sosa hit one. That's the summer his love of baseball was formed. That's the summer I began underhanding Wiffle balls to him in the yard. That's what's in his room now: A bobblehead of Mac and Mac's baseball cards in plastic stand-up sleeves. All that's worth more to me, that connection we'll always have, even if cheating brought it about. It's too sweet.
"Yes, I thought there'd be more outrage. Baseball's the one sport that had standards you could compare across generations, and that's been eroded. But the reaction's been more as if some major singer has been caught lip-synching--it's fodder for gossip and controversy, but it's not shameful.