The Threat To Barry Bonds

By Walik Edwards
Updated: March 6, 2007

“We still have hatred in this country. We still have to be reminded that things are not as good as we think they are.”

— Hank Aaron in 1999.

CALIFORNIA — It’s funny what the passing of 33 years can do.

The performance enhancing allegations against Barry Bonds and his surly demeanor towards people before the assertions have brought on an odd “full circle” dynamic, while he pursues the Major League Baseball home run record.

In 1974, Hank Aaron was in pursuit of the aforementioned record through the haze of overtaking a beloved icon in the sport, and hate mail and death threats directed at him and his family because of the color of his skin.

The commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, didn’t follow the pursuit and wasn’t there for the game Aaron broke the record, which set off a deconstruction of the new home run king that would take years to unscramble – from bitter man to pleasant human being.

Now the record is being pursued again, and all of the essentials just mentioned above are in place. Death threats are now in play, and the commissioner won’t be there when the record is broken – and it will be broken this season.

The idea of watching history, even if it’s just sports history dealing with a statistic that won’t shape the world in the least, is supposed to be fun.

It’s supposed to be an event baseball fans would plan their schedules around because they want to see it when Bonds hits #756. It should be an event with some majesty.

Baseball dignitaries should litter the field with hugs and handshakes for Bonds after his teammates pepper his huge helmet with congratulatory head slaps.

Once the ball goes over the wall in whatever stadium this thing happens in, it’s going to be an event as long as the sports media keeps it so.

Take away the allegations of steroid and/or human growth hormone use, and it would still be hard for most sports fans to wish Bonds well. He was aloof way before this pursuit began, and in human nature, people don’t wish well for those whose internal ugly goes coyote every time they’re spoken to.

That’s why there is a blessing and curse if this record is broken in San Francisco. The blessing is that these are the only people in the baseball world who will make a party out of it.

The curse is that the ball can only go into the stands into the hands of the people. Unlike the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium that housed a bullpen between the field and the stands, the ball will bring on another parade of legal wrangling as Bonds’ other home runs have in the past.

At least, Aaron got his ball gratis, and it sits unsullied in Turner Field today.

Aaron was also blessed that in a time where racial tensions included high levels of violence that went along with those threats, he and his family were unscathed.

Because no serious physical threat ever came to the door of any of the Aaron family, it would have been naïve for him not to have the kind of security he had to protect everyone he cared for.

It takes a crazy person to threaten someone from stop hitting home runs.

Bonds is dealing with those kinds of threats today, and like Aaron, he must protect all his loved ones with the best security because you just never know – and the theory on this is compounded that where Aaron was threatened because of the color of his skin, Bonds is being threatened because of being Barry Bonds and the color of his skin.

To say some of those threats are not racially motivated would be irresponsible. As the opening quote says, “…..things are not as good as we think they are.”

But if you were weigh the situation on an unbiased scale, the idea that being Barry Bonds probably overtakes the idea that race is the majority motivation for the threats and overall contempt for him to break this record.

Both Bonds and Aaron are black, so watching one black man overtake another black man, who people probably feel is a much better human being, isn’t the key here.

The key is the path Bonds has taken to get here.

He’s walked in hateful footsteps created by his own feet. And he’s walked in the shadows of dishonesty regarding his sport and this record. You can’t walk down too many questionable alleys before a negative consequence bites you, and no matter what he says, having only Willie Mays there, only by Bonds’ request, the day he breaks the home run has to hurt.

Mr. Aaron has decided not to show, and he may go to the grave about what brought on this decision, but he said that in this pursuit of the record back in ’74 he would be a exemplary person on and off the field, and carry himself with dignity.

Being dogged by feds, witch-hunt or not, his friend doin’ the rock to avoid ratting Bonds out, and the “Come and get me, coppers!” rap he threw out there a week ago isn’t exactly a dignified air he breathes.

Maybe, like the rest of us, Mr. Aaron doesn’t really know what to do with this mess.

Better to stay away from it, then be around it and get messy, and who can blame him?

Bud Selig has had Henry Aaron as a hero for as long as the two ran together in Milwaukee when Selig was hawking cars in the family biz.

With “one” reason, the commish would still have to waver on his decision not to show, but he’s got the game being scrutinized under his watch, with Bonds as Public Enemy #1, and his affection for Aaron as another rationale, there should be no gaping of mouths when Bonds just gets a 10-second phone call with a trite congrats at best.

Listen, we would all give a serious stink-eye to that person who would dare pursue any member of Bonds’ family with violent intentions regardless of our personal feelings towards the man, but this air of bitterness that threatens to poison an event that such be awesome is a shame.

While all the elements are the same, death threats, absent dignitaries, media assassination attempts on both men, amongst others, we still have a long way to go as people if anything else.

And when the lights dim, Barry Bonds have no one to blame for this particular situation but Barry Bonds