I talked with Lou
Gehrig the other day. Ran into him at the barbershop. Roger Maris was in the
chair, getting another one of those flattops. Busy day-- Elvis was waiting, then
Albert Einstein, then Lou, then me. Old Number 4 was reading an old copy of the
Police Gazette when I came in, but he put it down and asked me the question
everyone seems to be asking.
"So what do
you think about Barry Bonds hitting 715?" he said.
I told him what I
tell everyone: I'm trying to be nice.
different time, a different situation," I said. "It's a different game.
How's that sound?"
I know that
Lou--and everyone else--wants me to talk about the steroids, the allegations of
cheating. I'm not going to do it. I never talked bad in the press during my
playing career about any other player, teammate or opposition, and I'm not
going to start now. Not even about the most-disliked player I've seen in
baseball since Chick Gandil and the rest of those 1919 Black Sox. It's like
Clarence Darrow said when I saw him at the supermarket, "Babe, you don't
want to get wrapped up in this steroid mess. Let the lawyers handle
I will say that I
invented the four-ply wallop, the dinger, the dong, the circuit smash. If it
weren't for me, Barry Bonds wouldn't have had a road to follow. Wouldn't have
had the temptation to do bad things, either. Nobody would.
I was not only the
best at what I did in this home run department; I was the first at what I did.
I was the Vasco da Gama of home runs. I was the Charles Lindbergh. (I saw him
just last week at the dry cleaners. Looked pretty good, Lucky Lindy did.)
Before me, a home run was just a long fly ball. I captured people's
imaginations in a way Barry never could, never will. From the time I hit my
first professional home run--Providence Clamdiggers, 1914--straight into Lake
Ontario at Hanlan's Point Stadium in Toronto, I showed the excitement, the
majesty, the uninhibited happiness of watching a baseball leave the boundaries
of a simple game and land in real life, crashing through plate glass windows,
clanging off facades, knocking over beers and landing once-- Washington, D.C.,
1918--in a victory garden next to the turnips. That one was off Walter Johnson,
supplements were hot dogs and a pint of lager. My drug of choice was
bicarbonate of soda. My personal trainer--and, yeah, I had one, a guy named
Artie McGovern, who also worked with John Philip Sousa and some titans of Wall
Street--had me doing jumping jacks and push-ups. That was it. I was natural. My
scouting reports were in my head, not in some computer or video vault.
sluggers--not so much Roger or Hammerin' Hank Aaron, but the rest of them,
especially Barry--seem artificial to me. Legally or illegally, they seem
constructed in a fitness lab, tinkered and tweaked, outsized bodies put
together by scientists and mechanics. Their ballplaying seems to be all
business. They have helpers, coaches, stats men, nutritionists, psychologists,
personal assistants. Where is the music, everyone doing the Charleston in the
background? Where is the fun?
Does Barry ever
smile except when he's making a commercial? He walks to the plate like he's
taking out the trash. Every game seems like an imposition.