Monday, August 06, 2007

The Game Goes On

On the surface, yesterday seemed to be just another hot summer day in Atlanta. The Braves played to a half-empty Turner Field and nearly let the Rockies take the series from them before pulling the game out in extra innings. The smog kept most of the downtown area in a perpetual haze and an afternoon shower provided a brief respite from the drowning humidity.

I have been to Turner Field numerous times since it opened in 1997. I have seen the Braves lose some games and win some games. I have caught a ball at batting practice, gone through the museum and done the Tomahawk Chop ad nauseum.

But something was different about yesterday. Maybe it was the fact that I was at a ballgame with my friends and enjoying the ability to drink beer. Maybe it was the exciting Braves lineup that put up double digits in hits for the sixth time this week. Maybe it was the Sunday red uniforms.

While all of those things certainly factored in, the main difference was what had happened on the other side of the country the night before. Barry Bonds had hit his 755th career home run.

Walking into the stadium, I noticed more people than normal gathered around the statue of Hammerin' Hank out in Monument Grove. Numerous fans were wearing the throwback Hank Aaron jerseys, and I even saw a sign bemoaning the breaking of the record by a "cheat."

Walking through the stadium and seeing signs for the 755 Club really made me think about this moment in baseball history, and reflect on all of the torment that this league gone through. Whether it's racial issues, betting, money grappling or performance-enhancing drugs, this league has faced issues that go to the core of every person and it has endured.

On Saturday night, the fans of Atlanta, like so many fans of baseball around the country, didn't quite know what to do. Some might have booed Barry as he rounded the basepaths in San Diego. Others might have cheered the Giant slugger. I'm betting that most just made like Bud Selig - stood up, hands in pockets and watched silently.

But on Sunday morning, the sun came back out and the game went on. Atlanta fans had plenty to distract them from Bonds' chase: a division race, a revamped bullpen, a new All-Star first baseman, a series with the Mets coming up. But even with all of that, most of us took the opportunity to appreciate what was still ours, what we could still cherish. It would be the last time that I visited his statue and the place of his monumental blast while he still owned part of the greatest sports record of all time.

Hank Aaron. 755.

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