By now you’ve likely heard about fashion designer Marc Ecko’s purchase of Barry Bonds’ 756th home run ball and the hokey vote set up to have the fans decide what should be done with it — send it to the Hall of Fame unmolested, shoot it into space on a rocket, or brand an asterisk into the ball before sending it to Cooperstown. The owners of homer #755 are doing a similar thing by holding a vote to “End The Debate,” asking people whether they should save it for the HOF or destroy it.
You bought the balls, fellows. Do whatever the fuck you want with ‘em. However, if we’re going to let this fall into the hands of the people and give them the option of saddling the record-tying and breaking balls with asterisks and/or destruction, I have a modest proposal to complete the necessary cycle: put an asterisk on the Hall of Fame itself.
Black players not allowed in until 1947, not fully part of the game until the late 70s at the earliest, alcoholics, racists, pill poppers, they’re all in the Hall. And plenty more of those we laud were either taking those greenies or drinking laced pre-game coffee, etc., a lot of other things to get ahead. Hell, even Henry Aaron might have given in once or twice. To leave only Bonds’ ball with the mark, when we have accusations against the pitchers he faced, the suspicions about Roger Clemens that never get asked in public all that much, and every other hitter that just might have been on the juice, seems a bit less than fair.
This is democratizing the debate, and just as with every attempt at democracy, there can be kinks: people who vote more with their guts and hearts than with their heads or concepts of history. I’m not saying all asterisk users or Bonds detractors are of that ilk, far from it. But if we’re really going to brand the achievements of Bonds with a symbol of doubt, then we should be more than ready to do it for the majority of baseball history, and make that mark just as conspicuous and visible.
So, if the vote on 756 is to brand it or destroy it, I say we fashion a giant branding iron, heat it up, and brand the Baseball Hall of Fame with an asterisk all its own. Maybe we’ll just hang a giant banner, with an asterisk on it, over the front entrance. We can be as selective with our history as we like, but that selective memory always winds up looking bad decades down the road.