A few hours ago my family returned from California. Jill and the girls have been out there for five weeks. I was out there for two, which is long enough to adjust to the time change. It's nearly three in the morning, but my body thinks it's just now midnight.
We got home just as the San Francisco Giants' game against the Washington Nationals was starting, so I was watching intently as Barry Bonds strode to the plate and hit a double to the gap in his first trip to the plate. I was also watching when he came up again and lined a solid single. I was really glad to see the Nats actually pitch to him.
I was laying down with my three-year-old daughter when he came to the plate a third time. She'd wanted her mother to read her a story, but Jill was busy so I stepped in as a not-entirely-welcome second-stringer. It took some convincing, but Amelia eventually decided that she'd settle for me -- since I was the only parent available. We talked for just a couple of minutes, and I could tell she was getting drowsy. By this time Barry was in the on-deck circle, but she was so close to falling asleep that I didn't want to move for fear of waking her up. Her breathing was just starting to go deep, and she was so tired.
I could barely hear what was going on from the television downstairs. It got kind of quiet. Then it got really loud, and I knew what had happened. Jill said, "John, come quick!"
I remember a warm spring afternoon in 1981 when I got to see the debut of a chubby Mexican teenage phenom pitcher named Fernando Valenzuela. I remember where I was (Pepperdine Dorms) when I saw Kurt Gibson hit the homerun in the World Series in '88. I remember where I was (Dunwoody, GA) and who I was with (Rick Hazelip) when Dave Justice redeemed himself by hitting a solo shot against the Cleveland Indians in '95. I watched live on ESPN as Cal took his victory lap around Camden Yard. I remember watching Big Mac hit number 62 from a sports bar in Staunton, Virginia. I've seen my share of memorable baseball moments -- some of them in person, most of them live on television.
But I had to settle for instant replay this time. And I'm okay with that.
Performance-enhancing drugs are part of the game. Let's be grownups about that. To some extent, they always have been. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were getting more than vitamins in those injections! More than half of the guys who've been busted for using steroids have been pitchers. I'm not saying it's right, and I'm not saying Barry's clean. I don't know anything about him for sure (except his noggin has gotten huge, and that ain't normal), but I do know that if a hitter's using, odds are the pitcher is, too. So, the field is pretty level as far as I can tell.
And 756 is a lot of homeruns.
I've never hit one in a Major League ballpark filled with tens of thousands of cheering fans. I don't know what it feels like to round those bases and have Hank Aaron congratulate you on the Jumbo-tron.
But it can't be much better than having your youngest daughter fall asleep on you.