Aaron passes the torch to Bonds
By Jim Caple
SAN FRANCISCO -- Before the baseball winds up on eBay, before we make up our minds what the new record means (if we can) and before Pedro Gomez is assigned to follow around Alex Rodriguez, let's pause for a few words from the former home run king.
"I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds on becoming baseball's career home run leader," Hank Aaron said in a video message played on the AT&T Park scoreboard after Bonds hit his 756th home run. "It is a great accomplishment which requires skill, longevity and determination. Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years. I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement.
"My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams."
The words struck the proper note on a historic night, especially compared to how commissioner Bud Selig shoved his hands in his pockets and stifled a yawn for 755. Aaron's message was simple, gracious and encouraging. A lot of people hold differing opinions on what Bonds has achieved (and how), but Aaron reminded us that records are set, records are broken and what really matters is how those numbers move and inspire us.
"It meant everything, absolutely everything," Bonds said of the message. "We've all admired Hank Aaron, all have so much respect for him, everyone in the game. Right now, everything's hitting me so fast, I'm at a loss for words again but it was absolutely the best."
What makes the new record controversial is that we want the number to mean what the old number did, which is difficult in the age of performance enhancers. But that's also what makes baseball so special, so wonderful -- the way that what happens today is always connected to what happened yes...