Dec 09 2012

Baseball, Steroids and the Longest Rain Delay in History

Published by at 8:50 pm under Uncategorized

Baseball, Steroids and the Longest Rain Delay in History

“Everybody standing here at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. An armada of nautical craft gathered in McCovey Cove beyond the right-field wall. Bonds one home run away from history, and he swings and there’s a long one. Deep into right-center field. Way back there. It’s gone! A Home Run! – Into the center-field bleachers to the left of the 421-foot marker. An extraordinary shot to the deepest part of the yard – And Barry Bonds with 756 home runs.  Has hit more home runs than anyone who has ever played the game – Henry Aaron, the home run king, 755. He hit his last one 31 years ago. And now tonight in downtown San Francisco, Barry Bonds hits number 756, one more than Aaron.”

– Jon Miller’s radio call of No. 756

August 8th, 2007 – A moment baseball had seemingly been waiting for it, for the past 23 years, ever since Hammerin Hank Aaron took Al Downing “yard”, in 1974. Yes, this was truly a touching moment one of genuine human emotion, as Bonds rounded the bases and first saluted his father in heaven, and then embraced his son

A perennial moment for sure, but the added level of excitement for such an event was noticeably missing. The reason for that, of course, was Bond’s purported use of steroids. Bonds, while adamantly denied the allegations, somehow had dramatically increased his offensive production at an age where others were already in decline. Bud Selig, the game’s commissioner was ambivalent about attending and instead of being there to “pass the torch”, as is usually done, Henry Aaron chose to record a perfunctory congratulatory message which was displayed on the scoreboard. No doubt, Bonds had the record, albeit with an asterisk, according to many, because he is alleged to have cheated. As a result of this situation, there has been much controversy as to who really holds the HR record. Even of those who recognize Bonds as the leader, feel that perhaps there should be an asterisk next to his name in the record books, so as to denote the allegations surrounding him.

Surprisingly, this is not in fact, baseball’s first asterisk in the record books. In 2001, Billy Crystal chronicled the famous summer of 1961, which featured the home run chase between Yankee teammates, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle toward the elusive record of 60 home runs hit in a season by the immortal Babe Ruth. On the last day of the season, in true dramatic form, Maris surpassed Ruth and became the all time record holder for most HR in a single season.

Except, for one problem – you guessed it –

The “asterisk”

It seems that when Maris played the game, the season had been extended from the 154 games that Ruth played, to a 162 contest campaign – an increase of eight games. Maris, therefore, went into the record books with an asterisk, which detonated the fact that it took him eight games longer to set the mark. After much deliberation and outcry from some fans, Commissioner Fay Vincent decided, after 30 years, to finally remove the asterisk. The record, until it was surpassed seven years later, now belonged solely to Roger Maris.

In this week’s Torah Portion, the Bible tells us the famous story of Noah and his Ark. While the tale has been fodder as of late for Hollywood, there are some remarkable lessons that can be learned from Noah’s character. The Bible tells us that ” Noah was a righteous man, complete in his generation” Many of our sages deduce from this that in his generation, he was a great and righteous man – however, had he lived in a different era – such as the generation of Abraham, he might not have been held in such high regard. What the Torah is telling us, I believe, is that while Noah was great, his legacy was tainted with an asterisk! Noah.”Noah, meet Barry and Roger, as you are all in the same BOAT” (Pun intended)

As further proof of Noah’s deficiencies, the Biblical narrative offers a very peculiar incident. After building the Ark for 40 Years, after gathering 7 pairs of Kosher species, and 2 pairs of non-kosher – after enduring ridicule from his friends and neighbors – the verse tells us ” and Noah entered the Ark, because of the waters of the flood. The great commentator Rashi states ” Noah was a man of small belief, he believed, but he didn’t believe”

Amazing! A man builds the ark for 120 years, he collects the animals and devotes his life to this mission, and then, when push comes to shove – he has to be “forced” into the ark, because the water level becomes too high for survival. How could such an individual with his history, have doubts that the rain was coming? Noah should have been the first to enter the ark, as he would have been keenly aware of what was going to transpire. Says Rashi, “he believed, but he didn’t believe” – there was something lacking in his character, a sense of ambivalence, perhaps that compromised even his great accomplishment to some degree. Yes, Noah was righteous, but only because he was measure by his generation’s yardstick.

Every person in life has a choice as to what type of standards he or she wants to hold themselves to. Honesty in Business, Torah study, observance of Mitzvot, and so many more, are all arenas that define who we are, and perhaps more importantly, what type of individual we aspire to be. The question is, how do we set standards for ourselves? Do we look at all around us and say to ourselves that in comparison with our society which is ridden with problems, that our shortcomings are not too bad? Or should we demand a different yardstick for self evaluation, that being – living up to our full potential, regardless of anyone else’s. Our Rabbis tell us that one of the pangs of death is that we are shown an image of what we could have been and what we could have accomplished. This revelation is too painful for the soul to bear.

Noah, despite being the sole surviving family of a wicked generation, and therefore is all in all, one of our Biblical Heroes, nevertheless, he goes down in history with an asterisk attached to his name. A man who (pun intended) ends up being a “fair weather” servant of the Lord.

We may not live in a time of world annihilation, but we too are “flooded” by the perils of our world. Life is serious business, and one has to decide for him or herself, what type of legacy they want to leave behind. Do we want to be a run of the mill Noah, someone with an asterisk, or do we want to live as undisputed champions of our Judaism.

Schedules are tight and demands from family and work can be overwhelming, but we need to set our priorities if we are to accomplish what we need to. We go to the gym for Physical health, shouldn’t we therefore dedicate at least a time toward our spiritual health? We can even do it on our way to work with tapes, which are readily available on any Jewish subject one wants to learn.

Deep down each of us want to grow in our Judaism, no matter how far removed we are now. Everyone has equal opportunity – so let’s make adjustments, commitments, and most of all –

Don’t Miss the Boat!