Thomas Sowell

In personality, Bonds seems much more like Roger Maris than like crowd-pleasers such as Willie Mays or Babe Ruth. Maris was a private man, respected by his teammates, but not appreciated by the media, who like more colorful players like Sammy Sosa or Bunyanesque figures like Mark McGwire. It is very unlikely that the kinds of quotes attributed to Yogi Berra will ever be attributed to Barry Bonds.

None of this should matter when judging a baseball player. Barry Bonds has as much right to be Barry Bonds as Sammy Sosa has to be Sammy Sosa or Babe Ruth had to be Babe Ruth. If we were more rational creatures in some other galaxy, instead of human beings here on earth, perhaps it wouldn't matter.

But if Bonds breaks McGwire's home run record this year, he will probably not get as much -- or as favorable -- publicity as either McGwire or Sosa did three years ago, when they had their memorable and see-saw home run duel, with both surpassing Ruth and Maris.

That may not matter much to Barry Bonds. But there are others out there looking for signs of "racism" everywhere and such people will have a field day if Barry doesn't get the kudos that McGwire got. And the country doesn't need another divisive issue.

Back in 1979, when Willie Mays was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame -- but not unanimously -- some saw this lack of unanimity as sheer racism. But nobody before him had ever been elected unanimously. It may take an idiot to think that Babe Ruth or Willie Mays does not belong in the Hall of Fame, but all idiots aren't racists.

If Barry Bonds misses Mark McGwire's record this year but makes it next year, he will probably be acclaimed more, as someone who did not just get hot one year, like Roger Maris. On the other hand, a season like Bonds is having this year may come just once in a lifetime, even for the greats. How often does a player hit more home runs than singles, as Bonds has this year? Not even Babe Ruth did that -- and he was the one who put home runs on the map.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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