Howard (Broomer) Marlin is talking dead aim at Sadaharu Oh's world homerun record. With his patented uppercut motion, the portly Marlin has swatted 695 homers in 10 seasons of action in the Y'all Seing Slo-Pitch Softball League. He expects to pass Oh before Thanksgiving.
"Slapped five over the fence during a double-header just yesterday," Marlin told inquiring wire-service writers. "God to keep it going, though, 'cause I understand some Wiffle Ball guy in Alabama is 650 already.
Absurd? Of course. But not much more so than treating as gospel Sadaharu Oh's "surpassing Hank Aaron's world record" when the Japanese slugger hit his 756th home run over the weekend. Oh has more home runs, but he has not broken Aaron's record.
To equate Oh and Aaron is an embarrassment to both men, for while they abide by the same rules and use the same equipment and strategy they play decidedly different games. Even with asterisks - bushels and bushels of them - Oh does not belong in any record books outside Japan, just as the best American male gymnasts do not deserve mention with the Japanese legends.
When the wire services and others began treting the Oh vs. Aaron comparisons seriously, the reaction here was oh, no. It was tempered, however, with the conviction that someone somewhere along the line would be struck with a bolt of logic and Oh would be given his due - but with the proper perspective.
That did not take place. Oh got the full media blitz, including top-of-the-sports-page play in The Washington Post Sunday and a breathless world-wide AP lead: "Calmly facing a 3-2 count, Sadaharu Oh raised his right leg in typical Mel Ott style, then belted the 756th home run of his career last night, surpassing Hank Aaron's world record and making himself a national hero."
Having been ignored for so long before he broke Babe Ruth's record and now to be over-shadowed by a man who might well have been a superior player here, possibly at the Hall of Fame level, but not nearly his equal as a slugger, Aaron deserves to be miffed.
Aaorn's public mood has fluttered like a Hoyt Whilhelm knuckler.
"I would have loved to have been there to put the crown on top of his head because he certainly is quite a gentleman and the people of Japan have a lot to be proud of," Aaron told the fans over Japanese television.
His most recent comments have been more Aaron-like: "It can't be the major-laeague record . . . Japanese baseball probably is two steps down (from the U.S. National and American leagues).
"And Page 21 of "The Book of Baseball Records," Seymour Siwoff editor and publisher, will remain unaltered. Under most home runs, lifetime, it will remain: 755, Henry L. Aaron, NL: Mil. (398) 1954-65; Atl. (335) '66-74; AL: Mil. (22) '75-76.
Siwoff is the foremost figure filbert in all of sport. As he says, "With Oh and Aaron, you're not talking about the same thing."
Indeed, the theory that a homer is a homer, and never mind that it was against Kojiro Suzuki rather than Robin Roberts and in Korakuen Stadium rather than Memorial Stadium, even tends to degrade Oh. It allows otherwise silent skeptics to become wickedly cynical.
To some, it suggests that the all-time home-run champ probably is some bloated slo-pitch belter who smacks floating melons over short fences at a rate of two every three games. To others, it osuggests that Willie Mays ought to demand credit for all those stickball homers he struck in his youth in New York.
It reminds still others of baseball's black mark, that Josh Gibson may well have hit more homers than anyone - and against competition clearly closer to Aaron and Ruth than to Oh.
Simply because a golfer shoots 58 on a par-54 course does not mean his score breaks Al Geiberger's record. That a high-school basketball coach wins a zillion games does not make him superior to John Wooden and Red Auerbach. That Pitt won every game last season does not mean it could beat the Redskins, although that may well be in dispute at the moment.