San Francisco, Cooperstown Could Share Historic Moments
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO, July 23 -- There are precisely 183 days on the major league regular season calendar, and together Fate and Barry Bonds could have picked from roughly half those days, given Bonds's home run total of 734 entering the season, upon which to make history. One of those days, however, is more sacred than all the others, and thus, some would say, deserves to be sheltered from the tumultuous blast of Bonds's 756th career home run.
That day is Sunday, July 29, Induction Day at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., the day Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn -- twin pillars of the game -- are granted baseball's version of immortality.
But on the opposite side of the continent, Sunday also marks the end of the San Francisco Giants' seven-game homestand -- a stretch that began Monday night against the Atlanta Braves with Bonds going 1 for 3 with a single and a walk in the Giants' 4-2 loss, keeping him stuck at 753 homers, two behind Hank Aaron's all-time mark of 755. Bonds, who will turn 43 on Tuesday, and the Giants both hope he will surpass Aaron's record this week at home, before the team starts a week-long road trip.
Sunday, then, could be his last chance.
What would happen if Bonds is at 755 entering Sunday, a day set aside for honoring Ripken and Gwynn? As a practical matter, probably nothing. Bonds almost certainly would play, in hopes of hitting the record-breaker in front of the home fans. There would be no incentive whatsoever for the Giants to bench him.
On Friday, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said he would not bench Bonds on Sunday simply to protect Cooperstown's exclusivity, saying, "We're trying to win games." He also said there might be "exceptions" to his usual policy of resting Bonds for day games, like Sunday's, that follow night games.
"I think [Bonds] should play," said Frank Robinson, a Hall of Fame outfielder, induction class of 1982. "You don't step aside for an induction ceremony. [Ripken and Gwynn] are Hall of Famers because they went out and played. You owe it to your ballclub and to baseball itself."
But how would it alter the experience of the tens of thousands who will gather Sunday afternoon in a grassy field outside the village of Cooperstown -- a crowd that will include Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig and most living Hall of Famers -- to bear witness to the enshrinement of Ripken and Gwynn, if Bonds, whose alleged past steroids use has clouded the chase for Aaron's record, chooses the same day to hit number 756?
"It's basically good versus evil," said former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, a 1990 Hall of Fame inductee. "Here you have two guys who played the game the right way, who were marvelous people on and off the field, and another -- nothing against Barry -- who wasn't."
Perhaps the people least affected by such a confluence of events would be Ripken and Gwynn themselves, as they experience the culmination of their careers during a weekend that is practically immune from ill will.
"I don't think those two guys would mind," said Tony Gwynn Jr., an outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers who will leave his team this weekend to witness his father's induction. "I don't think it would take away from their aura at all. It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if [Bonds] decided to break [Aaron's record] on the same day. It wouldn't bother me. If he hits it, I won't see it. I'll be watching my dad go into the Hall of Fame. That's all that matters to me."
Ripken could not be reached for comment, but John Maroon, Ripken's spokesman, said: "In a perfect world, would we rather have Barry break Hank Aaron on a day other than Sunday? Obviously. That being said, I think Cal and Tony going into the Hall of Fame will be a huge celebration for baseball and a positive thing for the game. So I don't think it would diminish the celebration. It will just make Cal and Tony answer more questions than they would like to answer."