Any true fan of the game of baseball is a student of the game’s history. And being a student of the game’s history, he is ipso facto a collector, classifier, analyzer, and interpreter of statistics.
From the time I could read, I was poring over the backs of baseball cards, learning the stats. I was studying tables full of columns of numbers, the significance of which grew on me, and with me, as the years—and successive baseball seasons—rolled on.
I was also reading books for boys about the heroes and history of the Game—the Babe, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle—either borrowed from the public library, or received as gifts for Christmas and birthdays. I was an addict. I could tell you the name of the player holding the single-season or lifetime record for virtually any aspect of the game on which states were kept.
In addition to rooting for the home team (mine was the Detroit Tigers) to beat the hated Yankees and win the American League pennant (for these were pre-expansion, pre-ALCS days), one of the prime joys of each new season, and every single game, was the hope that this would be the year when some titan in spikes would break the Babe’s record, or pitch a perfect game, or fan 20 hitters in nine innings, or steal more bases in a season than Ty Cobb. And eventually, since God is good, somebody did; although I’m waiting yet for the man who will hit .400 in my lifetime.
But these days my enthusiasm for the America’s signature game has waned. It’s hard for me to get it up even to watch the Yankees—the team I adopted by default while living in the Bronx for more than a decade in the ‘70s and ‘80s—on television: the stats have been ruined; polluted and corrupted by steroids-fuelled and completely illegitimate numbers, achieved by frauds--by gigantic juicers with track-ravaged buttocks.
These sentiments are nothing new or original. Others have said all of this long before now. It’s just that I had hoped that I’d get over it—just as I got over the strike season. I really had hoped to get finally get back to my joy in the Game. But it hasn’t happened. Like a romance that’s died and fallen into an irretrievable past, it’s over.
That said, I want to go on record with the following. So far as I’m concerned, the single-season record for dingers is still held by this man:
And the record for career round-trippers belongs to Hammerin’ Hank:
Don’t even talk to me about asterisks and accommodations. I don’t want to hear it.