On Tuesday night when Aaron Judge blasted a baseball into the Texas night for his 62nd home run of the season, baseball history unfolded.
The dugout emptied like a Little League team, everyone rushing to meet their friend at home plate, to celebrate him and his greatness, and by the time Judge arrived there, his face still frozen in a wondrous grin, the roar from 38,832 at Globe Life Field apexed.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 5, 2022
What happened in the subsequent minutes, hours, and what will continue in the coming days, weeks, months and years did not ruin the majestic moment. But the discourse over the meaning of the number, of what 62 actually represents, takes that slice of baseball heaven and drags it through the forest of intellectual dishonesty and plants it in a graveyard of ahistorical nonsense.
There are opinions and there are facts. When adjudicating history, only the facts matter. So here are the two irrefutable facts.
Aaron Judge surpassed Roger Maris for the single season American League Home Run record with 62.
Barry Bonds is the single season home run king with 73.
But history isn’t that simple for the population, and baseball history for as glamorous it is, has been murky since its conception.
The moment moral supersedes fact, history beacons illegitimate. Sometimes it is difficult to grasp the ugliness of history and all of its worst moments which were swept under the rug. And what is baseball history if not soaked in ugliness?
MLB owners conspired to keep out black players until 1947 because the world and league were blatantly racist. Hundreds of deserving players were kept away from a game they could have been dominating. Do we ever say the records pre color barrier do not hold true in the record books? Without question the record books would be different, but that sad fact aside, those records remain. However it may call into question the legitimacy and authenticity of those records, history doesn’t have a delete button.
Trying to diminish history opens up a pandoras box like no other.
Fair play is an ideal worth preaching, yes, but not if its pursuit serves to advance personal agendas and in the process scrubs from the record things that actually happened.
The acknowledgment that Bonds is the single season and all time Home run king is not rooted in cynicism toward institutions that clearly failed with regards to PED’s. On the contrary, it’s an acceptance of those institutions failures, an admission that sports can not undo what’s been done.
You can not rewrite history, even if it seems like the moral thing to do.
Aaron Judge just capped off one of the most complete and historic seasons baseball has ever seen. He deserves all the flowers for his majestic season. His 62 home runs is a record; the American League record. He carried the Yankees to a division win with hopes of a World Series win.
But Barry Bonds, for all of his flaws and potential damage he and others have caused the sport, is still the home run king. We don’t have to like that his record has an asterisk next to it. And we certainly don’t have to like that he tarnished the record books forever with his perceived steroid use.
But to act as if 2001 didn’t happen? To ignore that Bonds, big head and all, hit 73 home runs and captivated the sports world, isn’t a feasible action.
Keep him out the hall of fame if you want because of the morality clause. I’m fine with leaving an asterisk next to his name when in discussion. But erasing his name from the record books, choosing to erase a huge yet blemished era of the sport, is simply a dangerous game to play.