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Now he belongs to the ages, if they’ll have him

The sun had sunk entirely under the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Nobody was surprised by that. You could set your watch by it, if you happened to have a newspaper and a good view. You could, again, set your watch by the moment the sun crested the Oakland hills the next morning. Some things are like clockwork.

Other things, though, are not bound by the gears and cogs and hands of time. The greatest mediums cannot predict them. We can note their occasioning: nine minutes before nine of the clock, the seventh day of August. At eight-fifty, the crowd had hopes. At eight fifty-two, they had a memory.

They knew when the sun had gone down, they knew when it would come up. They didn’t know if the sun would shine on a Giant still tied to a number like a boulder, every pitch a peck at his liver. They didn’t know if it would grow again, that void inside, to be pecked at again tomorrow by another pitcher. Some things punch the clock, some things do not. And some things are timeless.

The sky was black, as black as if the sun would never keep its appointment in the East Bay. The ball stood out white against it, as fine a target as you could imagine. As fine as it was the last pitch, or the one before that. Our boy from Riverside had walked up to the plate twelve thousand, five hundred and thirteen times in the Senior Circuit. Maybe that’s not quite a hundred thousand pitches, or maybe it is. Seven hundred and fifty five of those hundred thousand pitches had landed over a fence somewhere, in the Bay, out at Candlestick Point, across the country where Three Rivers meet, on Waverly Street, in a swimming pool, in bleacher after bleacher in thirty-six ballparks.

People speak highly of the Venus de Milo. Some say that the Mona Lisa is the most beautiful thing in the world. And some prefer that perfectly timed sunset on the ocean side of a Gate of Gold. There are partisans for the Northern Lights, and they will tell you that not knowing when they will make their appearance only adds to the ethereal beauty. And some will tell you that the homerun swing of Barry Bonds is the most beautiful thing in a world full of beauty. A twitch of muscle, a moment in time. Unpredictable and inevitable. A white ball in a black sky.

Note: Your Humble Blogger wasn’t actually going to write about this again, but somehow the idea came forward that if Mr. Bonds had been covered by the sportswriters of 1907, rather than 2007, the reports this morning would have been very different indeed, and this note came from that idea. Of course, in 1907 Mr. Bonds would not have been playing Major League Baseball, no matter how good he was, and in 1907 Dave Brain led the majors with 10 home runs for the Boston Doves (now playing in Atlanta). Roger Connor was the home run king with 138, a record set in 1897 and not to be broken until 1921, when a certain Baltimorean hit 59 in a single year, and chicks have dug the long ball ever since.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Thanks for writing this. The perspectives on the event are grand and beautiful. I hope to see film of 756 at some point: the written descriptions sound impressive, aside from all the historical meaning.

As an aside on baseball writing of an earlier era, I recently ran across this 1885 description of a batter's facial expression when approaching the plate: "Mr. [Hugh] Duffy, a distinguished townsman with whom it is a genuine pleasure to deal, tripped to the bat with his teeth set so hard that his jaw bones stuck out like handles on an Etruscan vase."

Not so many references to Etruscan pottery in the sports pages nowadays . . .

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