Barry vs. Babe: No contest
Can't be replaced
SoCals link: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion...uth-edit_x.htm
Wipe Ruth out? Even if he hit 1,000 homers, the chance of Bonds eclipsing Babe Ruth as the most famous player in history would be as slim as — well, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush knocking Abraham Lincoln off his presidential shrine.
Look, it's futile entertainment to compare athletes of different eras. Who was greater: Jack Johnson or Muhammad Ali, Wilt Chamberlain or Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods? So I'll let baseball's legion of addicts bicker over the hitting numbers, Bonds vs. Babe.
I'd submit that Ruth had one edge as a complete player. Before he became the Yankee home-run attraction, he was a superb Red Sox pitcher who won 18, 23 and 24 games in 1915-17. Unless Bonds develops a fast ball, he can't match Ruth as a World Series winner as hurler and slugger. I agree, though, that Ruth played in an all-white game while Barry's modern era of black, Latino and Asian players is faster, more athletic.
Because of the drug allegations — not his churlish, self-absorbed attitude — I wouldn't vote for Bonds when he's Hall of Fame eligible in 2011. He's done as much damage to his sport as Pete Rose did.
True, Ruth was a lousy role model, too. Once I asked an old Yankee catcher named Benny Bengough about rooming with Ruth. "I didn't room with the Babe. I roomed with his suitcase," he told me. Ruth was a clownish, profane man, a world-class skirt-chaser who stuffed himself with hot dogs and bootleg whiskey. "I like to live as big as I can," Ruth bragged.
But Bonds' jab at Ruth is absurd. Ruth is a legend, the subject of at least two movies (portrayed by William Bendix and John Goodman) and a slew of books (the best is Robert Creamer's Babe). He personified the Jazz Age. His homer blasts changed sports much like the forward pass changed football. He was funny. Asked why his annual-salary demand (of $80,000) should top President Hoover's, Ruth said, "I had a better year than he did."
Ruth will always be a folk hero, Bonds a tainted pariah. It didn't have to be that way. When I saw Bonds play a few innings last year, he seemed a limping, fat old man, a figure of sadness, not triumph.
On the night Bonds breaks Ruth's record, let the Lords of Baseball stand up and share the dishonor. The Juice Era that Bonds symbolizes was their handicraft. Their greed, guile and lack of guts was a drug, too.