FanDuel - WFBC

April 13, 2006

The Decline of Civilization - Bambino #3? ... Ease up: I don't read this columnist consistently enough to have a global opinion of his work, but I thought this was a very well-written article on a piece of this topic that gets irresponsibly blown up (as in the case of the LSU professor) but not often talked about from what I've seen on SpoFi.

posted by littleLebowski to baseball at 07:57 AM - 58 comments

I have to agree with him. Not counting racists, who will hate Bonds no matter what, I don't know a single white person who says Bonds passing Ruth is a bad thing. I will state publicly that Bonds passing Mays was a crime. And I just hope Barry never steals another base so he won't pass Luis Aparicio.

posted by ?! at 08:06 AM on April 13

I agree, too. I don't give a shit about Babe Ruth's place on the all-time home run list. He's a grainy image moving along to the voice of Ken Burns - and a big pile of numbers. That is all. Shit - where's RZA? This one actually IS about race.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:11 AM on April 13

nice spelling of "civilization" in the headline, knucklehead ... if that can be fixed, I'd appreciate it. Babe Ruth = baseball notable, interesting character ... not much more to the majority of people, even avid baseball fans. This Leonard Moore at LSU needs to be taken to task on this. I'm sure he's extremely intelligent and has quality views on a variety of topics ... but on this one, after reading his quote, I went from spewing soda onto my monitor, to anger at his irresponsibility, to shaking my head out of sympathy for the guy.

posted by littleLebowski at 08:23 AM on April 13

Race is not the issue. The media has made it the issue instead of steroids. If Bonds took steroids, then his passing Luis Aparicio on the all time homerun list will be as big a crime as passing Luis on the steals list. The fact he is black is the smoke screen the media has put over the real issue.......WAKE UP AMERICA. He is a black man, we know that, I want to know if he cheated!

posted by SAVANX at 08:24 AM on April 13

I think the whole premise of the article is faulty. Trying to find a white person that cares about Ruth's race makes no sense. Generally, white people don't care about race. Race is something that non-whites concern themselves with. And, we have had enough Bonds threads around here to know that someone damn near always mentions that it is a shame that Bonds might break "Babe Ruth's record." Bonds is being judged way more harshly than anyone else who used performance-enhancing drugs. The absolute hatred that so many spew and how Ruth (who doesn't even hold the HR record) is mentioned in about every Bonds thread makes me wonder how much race plays a part in this whole issue.

posted by bperk at 08:33 AM on April 13

I'd have to agree. The only person I've heard say anything about Ruth being white was Bonds himself. As for the rest of the article, did Mark McGwire shoot Dan Wetzel's dog? Christ, you'd think he was writing about Adolf Hitler with some of the over-the-top horseshit in that article. Look, if you're going to ignore the circumstantial evidence that Barry Bonds and a great number of other players have been juicing for a long time, why the hell are you singling out McGwire? Oh, and Dan? ...reasonable people can disagree on the issue and it's not like whites, at least whites who aren't St. Louis Cardinals fans/lemmings, support Mark McGwire ... Go fuck yourself. Thanks.

posted by wfrazerjr at 08:40 AM on April 13

Leaving aside the dull racial aspect of Wetzel's column, I think he underestimates the general affection that baseball fans have for Babe Ruth. Most players of his era are forgotten, but Ruth reached Mickey Mantle, Muhammed Ali, Michael Jordan status. Ali just sold 80 percent of the marketing rights to himself for $50 million. I'll bet Ruth's heirs are still raking in some serious money on his name.

posted by rcade at 09:24 AM on April 13

Every player needs to be judged in the context of the time they played. Nothing a player does today can diminish the accomplishments of Aaron let alone a player who began his career as a pitcher 90 years ago. It has been widely reported that Maris nearly had a nervous breakdown because of negative press coverage in 1961. Was that about race? Some people just do not want records to be broken. This issue is also about steroids. No one has anything nice to say about McGwire after his performance in Congress last year. It is easier to pick out one or two players to hate when the only other choice is not to watch baseball anymore. As the record breakers it is easiest to pick them out as the biggest abusers, although this is not at all logical.

posted by TOASTY POSTY at 09:31 AM on April 13

rcade, I don't think Wetzel or anyone here underestimates the general affection for Ruth. I debated leaving my "Babe Ruth = baseball notable, interesting character" comment as-is because it does somewhat understate the situation. But, except for an ignorant few (which includes Bonds and this LSU proof), affection for Ruth has nothing to do with his skin color. It's about him being an icon and endearing personality in an time of American culture where baseball was really hitting it's stride in society (not to mention his impressive stats). Making a claim about "racial fondness" (which I know you are NOT saying) is otherwise inaccurate, ignorant, and offensive.

posted by littleLebowski at 10:16 AM on April 13

oh, and I'm guessing it was you, rcade - thanks for the headline fix

posted by littleLebowski at 10:20 AM on April 13

But, except for an ignorant few (which includes Bonds and this LSU proof), affection for Ruth has nothing to do with his skin color. It's about him being an icon and endearing personality in an time of American culture where baseball was really hitting it's stride in society (not to mention his impressive stats). That time in society when black people were excluded from the game and the fondness with which some people recall that time is part of the reason why Bonds and the LSU prof think as they do.

posted by bperk at 10:39 AM on April 13

you know what's funny about America denouncing cheating in sports, is that this country was built on lies, cheating and treachery...and is still being progressed in that same manner! McGwire is a total shell of his former self, I am waiting to see Barry deflate as well, then you will have a better idea if he ass pumped or skin creamed it up or whatever!

posted by bkdet at 10:50 AM on April 13

When Hank Aaron was set to pass the Babe there were a lot of racial facets, the time when he did, the general view by whites of blacks, the fact that a black man was going to take a record long held by a white sports icon. I do not feel this is the case with Bonds. He is paying the price for acting like a spoiled jerk throughout his career, & the steroid cloud. Lets put a hypothetical out there: If McGuire was set to pass Hammering Hank what do you think the community of people of color would be saying? I am sure there would be lots of race stuff (Just like the Babe vs. Bonds), but I am also sure that the talk would be: Did he do this because he cheated the system (Used something to increase his stamina & lengthen his career)? I do value Babe Ruth for his colorful life, in & out of baseball. Do I care his record is going to be broken by a black man? Hell NO! I just question whether the record is falling because the guy breaking it used an unfair scientific advantage!

posted by directpressure at 10:59 AM on April 13

Of course, Spike Lee wrote an article for Gotham magazine a while back that explored the idea that Babe Ruth may have had a great-grandparent (or grandparent, I can't remember) who was black. That would have made Babe Ruth "black" in some people's eyes.

posted by grum@work at 11:21 AM on April 13

Race is such a complicated issue. While I just look at this as an issue of comparing historical figures in the context of today’s players as well as the issue of the morality of steroids, it would be impossible for me to discount anyone who feels this is a race issue because I have never experienced racism. That also does not mean that this is definitely an issue of race either. But if someone has felt the hatred of racism it is impossible to discount those feelings. This opens up a number of questions about race, racism and societies responsibility for past generations racist activities. No intelligent person can condone racism of any kind, but this is such a complicated issue that we can not even pretend to come up with an answer that would satisfy everyone involved.

posted by TOASTY POSTY at 11:24 AM on April 13

Here are the real Top 11 all-time career record holders for home runs in a professional career and what got them there: 1 Sadaharu Oh, 868 (Zen,sushi and the Code of the Samurai) 2 Josh Gibson, 800+ (Genetics and heartbreak) 3 Hank Aaron, 755 (Persistence,bat speed and character) 4 Babe Ruth, 714 (Booze,broads,cigars and kids) 5 Barry Bonds, 708 (Testosterone, Equipoise, Anavar, Primobolan, Winstrol-V, Dianabol, Maxibol, HGH) 6 Willie Mays, 660 (Joie de vivre) 7 Sammy Sosa, 588 (Testosterone, Equipoise, Anavar, Primobolan, Winstrol-V, Dianabol, Maxibol, HGH) 8 Frank Robinson 586 (Intensity and intelligence) 9 Mark McGwire 583 (Testosterone, Equipoise, Anavar, Primobolan, Winstrol-V, Dianabol, Maxibol, HGH) 10 Harmon Killebrew, 573 (Brute strength, even temperament) 11 Rafael Palmeiro,569 (Testosterone, Equipoise, Anavar, Primobolan, Winstrol-V, Dianabol, Maxibol, HGH) See a theme here anywhere?

posted by rockamora at 11:30 AM on April 13

The matter of race probably won't be put to bed until after Bonds passes Ruth's mark and goes after Aaron's. It'd be pretty darn hard to make the case for racism then, for obvious reasons. And frankly, I hope Bonds passes Ruth soon so all this talk of racism can end. It's tiresome.

posted by qubit at 11:39 AM on April 13

I don't hate Bonds because he's black I hate him for his egotistical steroid attack on the home run record about McGwire he admitted to taking andro that is a steroid he was just an asshole in the way he handled himself last year in front of congress I can admit Bonds took steroids but I have a hell of a time admitting to myself that my favorite bb player Slammin' Sammy took them even though I'm even starting to believe it

posted by luther70 at 11:45 AM on April 13

ooook. What a sentence. 1) Good list rockamora, but I think you'll have to alter the substances for McGwire. 2) McGwire is no more a "total shell of his former self" then the majority of other retired players. See Kruk lately? OK...he started out bad, but you get the point. 3) I'll still say nice things about McGwire. That' makes at least one. What he admitted to taking wasn't illegal or banned. There are no records that show otherwise. We just have Canseco's word. 4) McGwire did exactly what he should have done at that hearing. He didn't do what I would have, which is to tell the idiots to take a leap. Quit wasting taxpayer money on silly sh*t and investigate serious problems.

posted by ?! at 12:21 PM on April 13

Bonds is being judged way more harshly than anyone else who used performance-enhancing drugs. Really? Seriously? Just after your post, wfrazerjr complains about how much heat McGwire is taking. And what's Raffy Palmiero up to these days - or do you think him being caught has no part in his "retirement"? Sure, he's getting slammed but good, but only thanks to his own handling of the situation and the fact he's chasing hallowed records, regardless of who currently holds them. i.e.- you didn't hear this kind of anti-Bonds sentiment when he beat McGwire's single-season record ... if anything, due to the public's heightened awareness of the situation (valid or not), most people were reflecting they wished neither he nor McGwire held the record. That time in society when black people were excluded from the game ... and the fondness with which some people recall that time is part of the reason why Bonds and the LSU prof think as they do. Lord - well done, taking two completely unrelated issues and merging them to create a false assumption. Oh wait, crap, just the other day I DID say "Ahh, remember the good ol' days of baseball - when those people weren't allowed to play?" bperk, I will say, I generally respect your comments - and I'm absolutely open to debate or differing points of view. But, c'mon, if you truly believe that more than .1% of baseball fans feel that way - then I'll build you a bigger drum for you to beat.

posted by littleLebowski at 12:30 PM on April 13

Has anyone actually spoken to a white person who is upset that Bonds is on the threshold of breaking Ruth's mark (I mean, because he's black)? I, myself, have not encountered one person of any race that has brought that up in any intelligent and/or lively discussion on the subject. I mean, is this an actual issue, or are there parties who would just like to throw petrol on the fire?

posted by THX-1138 at 01:41 PM on April 13

unfair advantage or evening the plate, before 02 there was nothing in baseball about using anything. bonds makes what 25 mil or so a year total. who wouldnt extend their career. bonds big mac i guess these guys made living beating out infield hits before the juicing came. no they just hit the bleachers instead of the upper deck? If they did it it was sure fun to watch a bunch of fuckin yuppies in kayaks fighting over balls in the bay.

posted by kdrckrules at 01:48 PM on April 13

Lebowski, books (more than one) have been written about Bonds and his steroid use. We have posts here on SpoFi all the time where folks come out of the woodwork to spout Bonds hatred -- the posts don't even have to be about Bonds. MLB opened an investigation into steroid use after the book about Bonds -- not after the allegations in Canseco's book, not after the Congressional hearing, not after Giambi's admission, but after the book about Bonds. It seems to me that Bonds is bearing the brunt of the steroid outrage. Lord - well done, taking two completely unrelated issues and merging them to create a false assumption. Oh wait, crap, just the other day I DID say "Ahh, remember the good ol' days of baseball - when those people weren't allowed to play?" What's unrelated about those propositions? What was my false assumption? I did not say that the time was fondly thought of BECAUSE of the exclusion of black people. That's just how you read it. To many people (like Bonds and the professor, perhaps?), that time in baseball history is a travesty -- not a time that we should look back on fondly. It doesn't even matter if fondness for that time is from indifference to the exclusion of black people from the game or, as you suggested, some more active hatred of "those people." Couple this affection for a segregated game with the hatred of Bonds as he approaches Ruth's non-record and it is hardly surprising to me that someone could think that this whole outrage over Bonds and steroids has something to do with race. You don't have to believe it. And, it isn't even necessary for some white people to spout KKK-propaganda for racism to be involved. Racism, as you know, is usually more subtle than that anyway.

posted by bperk at 02:12 PM on April 13

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

posted by lilnemo at 02:16 PM on April 13

I am the only black male in my office.I just went around and asked everyone about this subject and like myself 99% of the people polled said race has nothing to do with it.Most baseball fans will say the same.The out-pouring hatred toward Bonds is about Bonds and the things he says and does.I read last week where he said once he passes Ruth that it.He doesn't want to hear about Ruth ever again.That's why I hate him!!! When Ricky Henderson broke Lou Brock's stolen base record and said" I am now the greatest of all time." that made me hate Ricky!! It has nothing to do with color but with these guys peronalities!!!!

posted by RHAMBLIN at 02:31 PM on April 13

MOST OF THE "AVID BASEBALL FANS" OF TODAY ARE NO MORE THAN CPA'S WHO KEEP STATISTICS And some of the "regular" baseball fans of today have no concept of grammar, punctuation, or capitalization.

posted by lilnemo at 02:35 PM on April 13

I just went around and asked everyone about this subject and like myself 99% of the people polled said race has nothing to do with it. Yeah... we're going to need you to go ahead and come in on Saturday... and in the meantime, I'll go ahead and get you another copy of that memo. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

posted by jerseygirl at 02:51 PM on April 13

BABE RUTH WAS THE GREATEST BALLPLAYER LOOK IT UP...

posted by norm kaline at 04:06 PM on April 13

Here are the real Top 11 all-time career record holders for home runs in a professional career and what got them there: 1 Sadaharu Oh, 868 (Zen,sushi and the Code of the Samurai) In Oh's case, he was helped considerably by Japanese umpires who gave him a strike zone about the size of a belt buckle. I lived near Hiroshima for about 8 years while Oh was playing, and watched "Japan Pro Yakyu" (baseball) as often as I could. I was constantly amazed by the variability of an umpire's strike zone, depending on pitcher, batter, score, and team standings. Not that Oh couldn't hit, but he sure did get a lot from the blue.

posted by Howard_T at 04:21 PM on April 13

The out-pouring hatred toward Bonds is about Bonds and the things he says and does.I read last week where he said once he passes Ruth that it.He doesn't want to hear about Ruth ever again.That's why I hate him!!! Yes. I agree. You could always say that Bonds would need to win 20 games as a pitcher a couple of times to realy compete, but thats not the point. Bonds has a huge chip on his shoulder and I have a feeling if he broke every record in the book it would still not go away. Bonds is foolish as he is trying to compete with the ghost of Babe Ruth and like most legends he is larger then life. I don't think Babe Ruth reincarnated today could compete against the legend of Babe Ruth. It seems that nothing is enough for Bonds. He was considered the best player of his generation before he allegedly took steroids. That drive may be what made him the great player he is but that drive may become his downfall.

posted by TOASTY POSTY at 04:44 PM on April 13

Baseball didn't exclude blacks when the Babe was playing; it was the society and culture of the times. I don't hate Bonds because he is black, I hate him because he is taking records dishonestly.

posted by irunfromclones at 04:57 PM on April 13

Howard_T, was that true for other stars? Is it still? That's interesting. BABE RUTH WAS THE GREATEST BALLPLAYER LOOK IT UP... Hard to argue, though there was a certain shortstop from Pittsburgh.

posted by yerfatma at 06:19 PM on April 13

BABE RUTH WAS THE GREATEST BALLPLAYER LOOK IT UP... Hard to argue, though there was a certain shortstop from Pittsburgh. He's obviously prejudiced against the Dutch.

posted by lilnemo at 06:27 PM on April 13

"Baseball didn't exclude blacks when the Babe was playing; it was the society and culture of the times." ....and spit take.... You have read some strange history books my friend. MLB owners colluded to keep black men out of baseball. You can not say it any more simple or any more true.

posted by ?! at 06:41 PM on April 13

I agree totally, yerfatma. Let his glory live on: Image hosting by Photobucket

posted by wfrazerjr at 06:45 PM on April 13

I just hope that after Barry breaks the record, the concession stands @ Pac Bell don't start serving fried chicken, or collard greens, or whatever them people serve.... I couldn't resist.

posted by mjkredliner at 08:25 PM on April 13

No matter how many home runs Barry Bonds hits, Babe Ruth was the first superstar of baseball. Yankee Stadium, the house that Ruth built. Bonds ultimate test will be how he is remembered in history!

posted by INOALOSER at 08:32 PM on April 13

You know, I think most of us who dislike the Yankees agree that anytime anyone breaks one of their records, it is a good thing. Even if the one breaking the record is a steroid slamming egomaniac.

posted by Joey Michaels at 10:18 PM on April 13

Bottom line is that the Babe will always be considered an icon and Barry will always be....something different to everybody. It's a shame because Barry was a great player without the "flax seed oil" and was fun to watch even if he was a jerk.

posted by ballen7065 at 10:31 PM on April 13

You know, I think most of us who dislike the Yankees agree that anytime anyone breaks one of their records, it is a good thing. Even if the one breaking the record is a steroid slamming egomaniac. Speak for yourself on that one.

posted by jerseygirl at 06:17 AM on April 14

I couldn't resist. Try harder.

posted by yerfatma at 06:31 AM on April 14

Barry Bonds is the proverbial bug up Dan Wetzel's ass. In past columns he's railed against Bonds and asked baseball to turn a cold shoulder to him. Hardly unbiased. So I'm not surprised he'd write a piece like this. I don't blame him. Most athletes are jerks to reporters. Most reporters are dogged and annoying -- just like Wetzel. You take your shots when you can. It's unfortunate Leonard Moore got roped into this. I'm sure he's not teaching a class about black athletes being discriminated against. He was asked a question -- probably along the lines of what Black America as a whole thought about the situation. He went on to say the things Bonds went through would probably "be 100 times worse than what Aaron went through." And that he was scared for Bonds. You don't read that in Wetzel's piece. Just the part about White America being scared. As far as the racism angle, it's probably one of those things no one but card carrying KKK members would admit to. Like asking a white dad if he would mind if his daughter dated a black guy. Most dads might say no. But when they got home and talked to the wife, the answer might not be the same.

posted by forrestv at 07:31 AM on April 14

Like asking a white dad if he would mind if his daughter dated a black guy. Most dads might say no. But when they got home and talked to the wife, the answer might not be the same. Oh gosh. Women really are the root of all evil. Impregnation trickery and racism! Plus, women use more toilet paper than men, so they aren't even eco-friendly!

posted by jerseygirl at 09:11 AM on April 14

Howard_T, was that true for other stars? Is it still? That's interesting. Yerfatma, Generally, preferential treatment from the umpires was meted out to those who would seem to merit it. By that I mean that the better players got the breaks. It might be a cultural thing, in that the Japanese fans want to watch their favorites come through, and the umpires cooperate in letting it happen. I don't know if this is still going on, since I haven't been in Japan since 1989. It wouldn't surprise me if it is.

posted by Howard_T at 09:27 AM on April 14

He went on to say the things Bonds went through would probably "be 100 times worse than what Aaron went through." posted by forrestv at 7:31 AM CST on April 14 Do you know your comments about the circumstances of Moore's statements to be fact? If so, then this makes him even more out-of-touch, jaded, and borderline idiotic than I previously slammed him for being. Please ... what Aaron faced was diabolical and will hopefully never be seen ever again (which I know is wishful thinking). What Bonds' is going through is significantly self-induced and while I'm sure he considers attacks on the legitimacy of his accomplishments to be earth-shattering, they're hardly even dust-particle-moving in the grand scheme of things.

posted by littleLebowski at 09:35 AM on April 14

I just hope that after Barry breaks the record, the concession stands @ Pac Bell don't start serving fried chicken, or collard greens, or whatever them people serve.... I couldn't resist. I'm sorry to be changing the subject, but you're the same guy who was defending Fuzzy the other day because his friends and family insist he isn't a racist, and because he might have been drinking when he said what he said- am I right? To paraphrase Samuel L in the second Star Wars, 'Perhaps it's time you go home and rethink your life...' Thoroughly offensive. And Yerfatma, I envy your tact.

posted by MW12 at 09:36 AM on April 14

What Bonds' is going through is significantly self-induced and while I'm sure he considers attacks on the legitimacy of his accomplishments to be earth-shattering, they're hardly even dust-particle-moving in the grand scheme of things. Bonds is surly and unfriendly to the media and sometimes even fans. He also is alleged to have used steroids during a time in the game when MLB had no drug testing for those drugs. Plus, he hits lots of home runs. From this, he is probably the most hated man in sports. He receives tons of death threats. A fan throw a syringe. He is booed. Contrast that to someone like Giambi who also used steroids, but isn't surly. The furor that Bonds is dealing with is completely out of proportion with anything "self-induced."

posted by bperk at 10:15 AM on April 14

And Yerfatma, I envy your tact. Don't. Envy my internal editor who forced a dozen rewrites and consistently blue-pencils the word "cracker" in (almost) all its forms.

posted by yerfatma at 10:19 AM on April 14

Speaking of self-induced, anyone care to comment on the 'softer side of Bonds' as portrayed in 'Bonds on Bonds?' Not sure if this is the appropriate means of introducing the topic, but it seems to fit and I don't recall seeing a post about it yet... It's like freakin Jekyll & Hyde...

posted by MW12 at 10:20 AM on April 14

Yerfatma- you're my hero...

posted by MW12 at 10:22 AM on April 14

awww.

posted by jerseygirl at 10:25 AM on April 14

1 Sadaharu Oh, 868 (Zen,sushi and the Code of the Samurai, inferior competition) 2 Josh Gibson, 800+ (Genetics and heartbreak, unsubstantiated records) 3 Hank Aaron, 755 (Persistence,bat speed and character) 4 Babe Ruth, 714 (Booze,broads,cigars and kids, segregation and corked bats) 5 Barry Bonds, 708 (Genetics, bat speed, amazing pitch recognition, Testosterone, Equipoise, Anavar, Primobolan, Winstrol-V, Dianabol, Maxibol, HGH) 6 Willie Mays, 660 (amphetamines and Joie de vivre) 7 Sammy Sosa, 588 (Testosterone, Equipoise, Anavar, Primobolan, Winstrol-V, Dianabol, Maxibol, HGH) 8 Frank Robinson 586 (Intensity and intelligence) 9 Mark McGwire 583 (Bat speed, pitch recognition, Testosterone, Equipoise, Anavar, Primobolan, Winstrol-V, Dianabol, Maxibol, HGH) 10 Harmon Killebrew, 573 (Brute strength, even temperament) 11 Rafael Palmeiro,569 (Consistency, Testosterone, Equipoise, Anavar, Primobolan, Winstrol-V, Dianabol, Maxibol, HGH) You missed a few points.

posted by grum@work at 10:39 AM on April 14

Nicely put grum. Steriods don't make a bad hitter good. I couldn't agree more.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 11:25 AM on April 14

Yeah, but I'm not going to nitpick interesting contributions to this ongoing conversation. They are few and far between.

posted by yerfatma at 12:11 PM on April 14

4 Babe Ruth, 714 (Booze,broads,cigars and kids, segregation and corked bats) Grum,This is the first I heard of corked bats. You added amphetamines to Mays but not Robinson and Aaron. They played in the same era and greenies have been a part of the game for decades. Or maybe I am missing the point. I am learning its best not to argue with the great grum.

posted by TOASTY POSTY at 01:06 PM on April 14

I don't know why you didn't go one more down the list of home runs: 12 Reggie Jackson (Bat speed, pitch recognition, moxie, candy bars, hellava strikeouts) (I hesitated posting again because I knew it would move me below the Mendoza Line.)

posted by ?! at 01:29 PM on April 14

12 Reggie Jackson (Bat speed, pitch recognition, moxie, candy bars, hellava strikeouts, stale beer and cigarette fumes emanating from Billy Martin)

posted by The_Black_Hand at 01:34 PM on April 14

The Home Run Race: That Ruth is still an issue in the pursuit of the home run record may lead one to believe that there are two records. Perhaps it is cause enough for some people to infer that, in the minds of some, there is a "white" home run mark and a "black" home run mark, and the former is about to be broken a second time, and maybe there are those that don't like that. While I can understand how these theories get planted and incubated, I don't subscribe to them. Ruth was also ever-present in McGwire's pursuit of Maris even though he didn't hold that record, and there was nothing racial there that I can see. The fact is that Ruth is still, for many people, myself included, the greatest baseball player ever -- and not just for his accomplishements on the field. His pitching stats, hitting stats, and general reputation as a player speak for themselves. His talent AND his personality also made him an icon, not just of the baseball world, but of the entire '20s era in America. Try to think of five faces that defined that decade in America before you think of Ruth... you can't. Mostly because I just mentioned him so he's already in your head. Hah! But I digress... Ruth also completely changed the way baseball is played more than anyone ever has or presumably will and saved the entire sport from becoming a display in a taxidermist's window, but that's a whole n'other story. (Ruth, by the way, was far from being the FIRST superstar of baseball, as was suggested earlier. Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Cobb, Brouthers, and a huge list of others predated him, but the fact that the perception exists that he was the first is a testament to the largeness of his legend.) Ruth's Own Race: Spike Lee was not the first person to suggest that the Ruths may have had some African Americans in their lineage. While at St. Mary's School for Boys, Ruth was viewed as having features that favored those attributed as being "black," and gave Ruth some pretty unflattering nicknames as a result, the most notable of which, referencing his lips, used a term that no decent-minded person on this site wants to read here. Ruth heard racial epithets throughout his career, and some notable players, including the great Ty Cobb, are said to have been convinced that Ruth was, indeed, black. Fred Lieb told a story that once, when Ruth and Cobb were to lodge together in a hunting cottage in Georgia, Cobb refused, saying, "I never have slept under the same roof with a [expletive], and I'm not going to start here in my own native state of Georgia." So, Ruth had his own racial obstacles to overcome in the path to his records. Ruth's records in the context of the times: As bperk mentioned, the racial environment of Ruth's era is a mark of shame for this country. Yet, there is an implication that all successes in this era are to be responded to with this shame in mind. I disagree. The racism that surrounded baseball in that era should no more detract from Ruth's record than today's steroid issue should spoil Boston's first championship in 86 years, or any of the other great achievements of the last decade. Like anything else, eras are not all good or all bad, but should be observed in a broader, more graded scope. Ruth played in a segregated league, yes, but integration, like steroids, would have made a very good thing better, not a bad thing good. (I am certainly not equating integration with steroids on the good/bad scale, just measuring their relative impact as being similar.) I am by no means an apologist for segregation -- it was a very, very bad thing, to be sure. But it is my opinion that Ruth's records and standing as a player would not have been significantly changed by integration -- great players are great players, and I believe Martin Dihigo would have had just as hard a time getting Ruth out as Lefty Grove did. It is certainly unfortunate that we will never know for sure. Numbers in perspective: The Hall of Fame recently finished an extensive study on the Negro Leagues. It turns out that the legend of Josh Gibson, largely an oral history before the study, was likely to have inflated his numbers a bit. The study concluded that Gibson's home run total was more likely to be closer to 200. This should in no way detract from our view of Gibson's talent. More, it should underscore how much the hard numbers can deceive and how -- across leagues, across eras, and over seas -- they are not really comparable. A player's performance is really only relevant in the context of his peers and within his league (and, given issues like steroids and the very interesting post by Howard T, even that confined view can be misleading).

posted by BullpenPro at 02:25 PM on April 14

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