It drives me crazy, the numbers that have been lost to steroids.
Great numbers such as Hank Aaron’s 755 career homers and Babe Ruth’s 714. I always loved Willie May’s 660 because I fantasized as to how many more he might have hit if he hadn’t played in the cavernous Polo Grounds.
We lost Roger Maris’ single season mark of 61 to the cheaters too. In many ways it was a worse crime, since Maris wasn’t much more than a middling outfielder for the Yankees save for one magical season. At least Aaron and Ruth and Mays were All Time Gods by the time Barry Bonds came along to steal their numbers away.
Harmon Killebrew, who passed away this week, kinda got lost in the ensuing conversations as well. Because modern day is always good at talking up history, but never quite as proficient at saving it. Harmon was an old school slugger for the Minnesota Twins back in a time when baseball numbers still mattered. He hit 573 home runs in his baseball life. Every single one of them was clean, which seems downright quaint nowadays.
They hung this red seat from the old Metropolitan Stadium inside the Mall of America to commemorate the longest homer ever hit in the ball yard that preceded Target Field. The Killebrew blast traveled 522 feet and landed in the lap of this artifact that feels as if it were combed from Dickens.
A generation of fans have been raised on the idea that sluggers come out of labs. Most kids wouldn’t have a clue that Killebrew hit home runs in bushels because there are no Sports Center highlights to prove it. But in his time, there were few better at losing a baseball. His were real. Earned. Home runs requiring no alibis.
I dig the symbolism of that red seat jutting out over the hurricane of modern white noise. It makes sense that his memory should keep to the grounds that are rightfully his and to the air which used to carry numbers that meant something.