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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Barry's got nothing on Babe

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

I keep hearing all this talk about "Barry Bonds chasing Babe Ruth" and, as the one they call The Babe, Bambino and Sultan of Swat, I've gotta laugh.

Maybe, down there, what with the rain and all, you thought it was thunder.

As Lou Gehrig was saying the other day, "Babe, you've been dead for 57 years but sometimes this Bonds guy doesn't look a whole lot better off."

I mean, Bonds is playing on a hobbled right knee, has a taped-up left elbow, is batting something south of the Mendoza Line and Jae Seo is grooving fastballs past him. Sometimes it seems Kirk Gibson struck a more imposing pose at the plate in the 1988 World Series.

Just because I haven't drawn a living breath since a decade before the Giants left New York doesn't mean I'm out of touch. I know there are just six home runs between us and if Bonds makes it through the month of May, he'll eventually match and surpass my 714 career home runs.

With all that has been going on, Bonds has been a shadow of his former self, which, they tell me, coincidentally figures in the title of one of the books about allegations he shot himself full of all kinds of steroids, including one they use to bulk up cattle.

And to think people thought it was a big deal when I downed a dozen hot dogs and a bunch of beers in one sitting. The only shots I ever took as a player came from a glass.

Now, I don't know what Faustian bargains Bonds struck to get all those home runs the last few seasons, but between the body breakdown, the cascading boos and flying syringes, passing me and catching Hank Aaron must be awfully important. Not even all that body armor or the insouciance he pretends can shield him from the wrath on nights away from the Bay Area.

Not that I take any joy in it. I'm not like the 1972 Miami Dolphins, clinging to a record for my legacy. I had no beef with Roger Maris in '61. In fact Roger and I are going over to Miller Huggins' place now. And, I sure hated to see what happened to Aaron, one class guy.

But 714 is a number and we're talking history and public perception here. That's something Bonds will never come close to matching. Even Charlie Root will agree with me on that point.

People still call home runs "Ruthian" and debate whether I called my shot against the Cubs, which figures to be a lot different from how Bonds' shots are remembered. Bonds will be the Sultan of Squat.

There's a Babe Ruth Museum in my old hometown of Baltimore. What would they give Bonds, a wing in the BALCO museum? And, there will still be a Babe Ruth League for kids. You think there will ever be a Barry Bonds League?

Bonds can chase all he wants, because when it comes to baseball lore, he'll never catch me.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.