Jaffe: After 10 years, it’s time to embrace Barry Bonds’ home run record

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at Sports Illustrated on August 7, 2017:

Ten years after Barry Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron with his record-setting 756th home run, it’s safe to say that there’s still little affection for the moment, the player or the new standard he set. But with no challenger to his record on the horizon, it’s one that we’ll have to live with for a long time. It should be more than that.  

Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record with his 715th home run on April 8, 1974. Immortalized by not one but two famous broadcast calls—Milo Hamilton for the Braves, Vin Scully for the Dodgers—the moment is indelible. It made household names out of the pitcher who served it up (former All-Star Al Downing) and of the player who caught the ball in the bullpen (reliever Tom House). We even know the story of the two teenagers, Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtenay, who ran onto the field to congratulate a very surprised Aaron while he rounded second base. Neither the long-deceased Bambino nor commissioner Bowie Kuhn were in attendance, but the celebration of the homer included Aaron’s parents, Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson and entertainer Sammy Davis Jr., who offered $25,000 of the ball (which House instead gave to Aaron).

As for Bonds, the details are less ingrained in memory. No. 756 came at San Francisco’s AT&T Park off Nationals lefty Mike Bacsik, a journeyman who would pitch just 14 more games in the majors, never adding another win to his career total of 10. Giants play-by-play man Duane Kuiper (the author of one major league homer in his 12-year career) accompanied the shot with a memorable call, but up against Scully’s note of the significance of the moment—”What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time idol”—it doesn’t carry anywhere near the gravitas.

Read the full article here: https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/08/07/barry-bonds-756-home-run-record-ten-years-later

Originally published: August 7, 2017. Last Updated: August 7, 2017.