I was there, that June at Wrigley, when the fever caught Sammy. See, that's me and the three kids in the bleachers that weekend he rocked five out of the cathedral and the great home run chase was on.
I was there, that July in San Diego, when Big Mac took one into the second tier. Look, that's the lawyer I met up there, the guy proud to own the head struck by Mark McGwire's 43rd.
I was there, that September in St. Louis, when the fever caught us all. There, handing out hundred-dollar bills like sticks of stale gum just to get inside the coliseum and sit where the record long balls would land. There, alongside a Korean housewife who'd dreamed she would snag number 62 off Big Mac's bat, and a scrap-metal salvager and a psychiatric nurse and a Japanese chef and an 87-year-old guy in a wheelchair, wearing an oxygen mask and a baseball glove. Standing on my seat and pounding my own glove and screaming my lungs out--see, that's me and my fishing net just before that damn usher took it away.
When that magical summer of '98 ended I went home, put all these photographs into an album, etched captions beneath them so that one day someone else would understand the significance of what I'd seen and felt ... then sealed my moments beneath protective plastic so they'd never be smudged.
I look up from the pictures. My God. It's Sammy and Big Mac, six and a half years later, together again ... at a table in the Rayburn building on Capitol Hill, facing a firing squad of cameramen and of congressmen asking terrifying questions. McGwire clenching back tears, refusing, on his lawyer's advice, to answer questions about anabolic steroids. Sosa denying he used them ... but boy, oh, boy, that body language and those brief, mumbled replies....
For 11 savage hours Congress asks the players, the commissioner, the general manager, the union chief, the lawyers and the medical advisers what they're going to do now. Funny. Everybody but us.
I stare at the photo of me in the crowd wearing the glove and the big grin. What am I going to do with this scrapbook full of memories and the story I used to tell?
My eyes shift to the other faces in the snapshot. Another summer full of moments will soon begin, the biggest home run record of all ripe to fall. What will we do, each of us, now that we know?
I WALK OUT of my house. I cross the street. A professional problem solver lives there. A 51-year-old man whose job, as general counsel and professor of legal studies at College of Charleston in South Carolina, is to find solutions to disputes and crises that arise on campus. And, on the side, to teach a course called Baseball, Mythology and the Meaning of Life.
Andy Abrams has strolled all around baseball's cesspool, stared at it as lawyer and lover both. "O.K.," he says. "We can't prove that Bonds intentionally took steroids, even though everyone knows he did. So let's say we take him at his word that he unknowingly did. It's still an unfair advantage. Compare it with what we'd do if someone took a Kaplan course to prepare for the SAT, and one of the practice tests he got the answers for turned out to be the real test. Even if he didn't intend to cheat, his score would still be thrown out. The result must be addressed, even if there's no penalty.