Monday, February 16, 2009

Zen Dayley: Hank Aaron isn't here to be kicked around

Henry Aaron, as you probably heard, wants no part of being a political football.

Some of you probably saw that Aaron took a hammer to MLB commissioner Bud Selig's CYA (that doesn't stand for Cy Young Award) notion that baseball's all-time home run record should be restored to him. Aaron told Atlanta scribe Terence Moore, "I just don’t see how you really can do a thing like that and just say somebody isn’t the record holder anymore, and let’s go back to the way that it was." He added:
"It belongs to Barry (Bonds). No matter how we look at it, it's his record, and I held it for a long time. But my take on all of this has always been the same. I'm not going to say that Barry's got it because of this or because of that, because I don’t know."
Selig kind of played into the sad reality that Aaron "has been reduced to a sportswriter's cheap trope" (Tommy Craggs, Slate, July 2007) instead of being properly appreciated. It is also ties in with getting people to reject this whole notion that there is some special sanctity to baseball's record book. It's just an annual put out by The Sporting News.

All we know about Aaron is through reading about him and knowing his statistics, that he hit 755 homers yet had good enough bat control that the Milwaukee Braves actually used him as their 2-hole hitter for part of a season. Whatever feelings he has toward the years 1973-74, when he was closing in on Babe Ruth's record, are his alone. It is notable that he once said it was odd how the biggest record in baseball was the home run record until he, a black man, broke it, then it became Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.

It might very well be that being passed by Bonds gave the 75-year-old Aaron, in dollar-store psychology parlance, a chance at closure over that period in his life. That was one takeaway from a passage in Bill Rhoden's column Sunday, which evoked a years-ago interview.
"During an interview in his office in the early 1990s, I asked Aaron about his attitude toward celebrating the anniversary of breaking the record. He said that 'April 8, 1974, really led up to turning me off on baseball.'

" 'My kids had to live like they were in prison because of kidnap threats, and I had to live like a pig in a slaughter camp,' he said then. 'I had to duck. I had to go out the back door of the ballparks. I had to have a police escort with me all the time. I was getting threatening letters every single day. All of these things have put a bad taste in my mouth, and it won't go away. They carved a piece of my heart away.' "
Reading that, as a carpenter's son from cracker-ass crackerville, does not answer definitely why Aaron would have such a take, but ours is not to demand an answer. It would make one feel like they get why he's not too eager to be someone's "rhetorical bludgeon" (Craggs' term) all these years after the fact.

No word of a lie, Terence Moore's blog post went up late Friday afternoon, right when yours truly has on the radio with Kinger, touching on Alex Rodriguez, steroids in baseball and such. Selig's suggestion of installing Aaron came up, and if memory serves I spat back something about it being an "affront" to Aaron's "dignity," would that I had with a better word.

The point is Hank Aaron is 75 years old. Leave him be.

This, that and the other
  • The Yankees don't like paying rent.
  • The Roy Halladay Farewell Tour should be in full swing by mid-March, so sayeth Jeff Blair at
  • Erik Bedard threw off a mound; this counts as news in spring training, especially since it's coming from Geoff Baker and has another Concordia U grad, Jared Book, now contributing.

    Bedard spoke to the media afterward, which is a good sign.
Aaron: Bonds can keep the record (Terence Moore, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb. 13)
In Aaron’s View, Bonds Is Home Run King (William C. Rhoden, The New York Times)
Hammering on Hank; how the media abuse baseball's home run king (Tommy Craggs, Slate, July 20, 2007)

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