Chamblee54

Babe, Hank, Barry, And Joe

Posted in History, Library of Congress by chamblee54 on July 16, 2017







Barry Bonds was about to break the lifetime record for home runs. Folks said the record was tainted because of steroid use, and because Mr. Bonds was not a nice man. There were calls for an asterisk in the record book. This was odd to PG, who was in Georgia when Hank Aaron broke the home run record in 1974. Back then, the line was that Babe Ruth had fewer at bats than Mr. Aaron. A lot of hateful things were said about Mr. Aaron before home run 714.

PG decided to take a look at the metrics. This post is the result. As a bonus to the reader(s), Joe Torre and Hank Aaron gets a summer rerun. It is based on a column by Furman Bisher, who went to the press box in the sky March 18, 2012. Pictures are from The Library of Congress. This is a repost.

There is a certain controversy these days about the eminent breaking of the lifetime home run record. Currently held by Hank Aaron, the record is threatened by Barry Bonds. Before Mr. Aaron held the title, Babe Ruth was the owner.

Controversy about the lifetime home run record is nothing new. In 1974, when Hank Aaron was about to break the record, the admirers of Babe Ruth said that Mr. Ruth had fewer at bats than Mr. Aaron did. Many attributed this criticism to racism, with a black man besting a white man’s record. The current controversy is two fold. There are allegations that Mr. Bonds took steroids to make him stronger, and that he “cheated”. There are also concerns about the personality of Mr. Bonds.

PG does not think steroid use is a big deal. Ballplayers are abusing their bodies to perform, and if they take the risk of using steroids, that is their business. Many people disagree.

A good question to ask is, would Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron have used steroids if they had the chance? Mr. Ruth was a wildman, who drank during prohibition, and was known for undisciplined behavior. Mr. Aaron played in an era where steroid use was not as common as it is today. The answer to the first question is (Mr. Ruth) probably and (Mr. Aaron) who knows.

While you are keeping hypocrisy statistics, Mr. Aaron and Mr. Bonds played on television, where beer commercials were constant. While alcohol is *now* legal, it is a very damaging drug. Any ballplayer who plays on television promotes its use. This is both steroid users, and non users.

As for personalities, there is the widely circulated story about the college team that Mr. Bonds played on voting 22-3 to kick him off the team. At the very least, he does not charm sportswriters.

In 1917, Babe Ruth was suspended for hitting an umpire. He was known for his outlandish behavior throughout his career. It should also be noted that he played in an era when the press did not scrutinize the behavior of players. How would today’s media treat Babe Ruth?

PG once heard a radio show caller say that Hank Aaron was a mean racist, who would just as soon cut your throat as look at you. He had never heard this said out loud before, but had heard hints about Mr. Aaron’s personality over the years. People who achieve great things are not always friendly.

Mr. Aaron is the only one of the three that PG met, however briefly. In July of 1965, the Milwaukee Braves came to Atlanta to play an exhibition game in Atlanta Stadium. After the game, PG was allowed to wait outside the clubhouse, to get autographs from the players as they left. Joe Torre saw the crowd, hid behind a truck, and made a quick getaway. Hank Aaron came out, patiently signing every autograph, while smoking a cigarette.

The fact is, all three men played in different eras. Babe Ruth never played at night, never flew to California, and only played against white players…many of the most talented players of his era were in the Negro League. Hank Aaron played before free agency, interleague play, the DH, and widespread use of steroids. The only way to determine who is the home run champion is to count how many homers are hit, and award the prize to the man who hits the most.

Which of the three made the most money? Barry Bonds, by a wide margin. He played in the free agent era. Babe Ruth had the best line about his salary. In 1930 Ruth was asked by a reporter what he thought of his yearly salary of $80,000 being more than President Hoover’s $75,000. He replied “yea, but I had a better year than he did.”

Who played on the most teams to win a World Series? Babe Ruth 7, Hank Aaron 1, Barry Bonds 0.

The career of Babe Ruth was a long time ago. He made a greater impact on America that the other two combined. He was one of the first sports superstars, as America emerged from the carnage of World War One. Mr. Ruth broke the single season home run record, he hit 29 homers. The next year, he hit 54. There is a possibility of a livelier baseball.

Babe Ruth captured the imagination of America like few personalities ever have. Playing in New York (which dominated the press) did not hurt. He was a man of his times…it is unlikely than anyone could have that kind of impact on today’s superstar saturated America. While his record has been broken, his place in the history of baseball is the same.

UPDATE: As of July, 2016, the lifetime home run leaders were: Barry Bonds, 762, Hank Aaron, 755, Babe Ruth, 714, Alex Rodriguez, 696. Mr. Rodriguez is said to have used steroids.







Furman Bisher has a piece at the fishwrapper site about Joe Torre. (The link no longer works.) The punch line is that Mr. Torre “grew up” when the Braves traded him to St. Louis. PG was a kid when this was going on, and did not hear a lot of what went on.

In 1965, the Braves played a lame duck year in Milwaukee before moving to Atlanta. One night, there was an exhibition game at Atlanta Stadium, the Braves against the Yankees. PG got his oh so patient dad to take him to the clubhouse after the game, to get autographs. In those days, you could go into the bowels of the stadium and wait outside the locker room. Hank Aaron signed dozens of autographs while smoking a cigarette. Joe Torre came out, hid behind a truck, and took off running.

Mr. Torre was a raccoon eyed catcher for the Braves. In the first regular season game in 1966, he hit two home runs, in a thirteen inning loss. Soon, the novelty of big league baseball in a toilet shaped stadium wore off. Mr. Torre got at least one DUI, and a reputation as a barroom brawler. He was traded to St. Louis in 1968. Mr. Torre hit .373, and won the national league MVP in 1971.

The comments to the feature by Furman Bisher were interesting. Cecil 34 contributes
“The reason that Torre was traded is because on the team’s charter flight back to Atlanta back in 68, a drunken Torre got into a fistfight with Aaron. Aaron popped off to Torre, and thus the fight was on, broken up by the other players. Since Aaron was the face of the franchise at the time, Torre was traded. There had been bad blood between them for years before this incident anyway. Reasons vary. But the final nail in the coffin was this fistfight. I was told Torre could pack a punch and Aaron came out on the worse end of it.”
There has been whispering for years about Hank Aaron and his attitude. Furman Bisher made hints once or twice, but there was never anything of substance. It seems that Mr. Aaron does not lack for self confidence. Mr. Aaron was the subject of much racially based abuse while chasing the home run record in 1973, and some anger is justified.

Hank Aaron was known to not get along with Rico Carty. Mr. Carty is a dark skinned man from the Dominican Republic, who was popular with fans. Mr. Carty was eventually traded. Rico Carty had a barbecue restaurant on Peachtree Road in Chamblee, next door to the Park and Shop.

Joe Torre was the manager of the Braves in the early eighties. The team won a divisional title in 1982, but lost the NLCS. This was after Ted Turner bought the team. Mr. Turner fired Mr. Torre in 1984.

Getting back to the comment thread, Misterwax contributes
“Turner cut Joe Torre loose because Ted was in love with Henry Aaron and Aaron thought Joe Torre was a white supremacist….A hangover from the clubhouse days when they were teammates…still does today. And THAT is the only reason he was cut…because Hank Aaron said so.”
Hank Aaron was recently quoted on Barry Bonds and Steroids. Joe Torre retired as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010. He won four World Series as manager of the New York Yankees. Furman Bisher outlived Bear Bryant by 26 years, passing away March 18, 2012. Selah.






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