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A Weekend of Personal Bests

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Are we/am I fiddling while Rome burns? Playing Ball while Bridges Fall? Of course I am…but more on that later. In the world of baseball, it was a weekend chock full of personal bests.
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Barry Bonds Ties Hank Aaron’s Home Run Record

Long awaited, dreaded or anticipated, depending on your point of view, Bonds finally hit home run #755 in a game against the San Diego Padres. To add to the irony and awkwardness of the occasion, the pitcher who’ll go down in history with Bonds was one Clay Hensley, another suspect in the steroid users club. There seemed to be more cheers than boos coming from the stands, but one person who did neither was gutless Bud Selig, who bears the undeserved title of Baseball Commissioner. Selig managed to make it to the game, only to sit in the stands with a sour look on his already sour face, and when the run was hit, he had to be told to stand up with the rest of the fans. Reluctantly he pulled himself to his feet, furtively glanced around…and put his hands in his pockets! Kudos to Mike Golic of Mike and Mike in the Morning for today’s tirade condemning Selig’s behavior. It was as vigorous as any rant I myself have ever posted. By the way, even if you’re burnt out on Barry Bonds trivia, there’s one article you must read: Ballhawks Circle for Historic Bonds Home Run Balls, a hilarious story about the ballhawks of McCovey Cove. Now that Bonds has tied, they’re gearing up for the record-breaker, which could come in tonight’s home game.

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A-Rod watches #500 sail off into the stratosphere

Alex Rodriguez Hits 500th Home Run

The Yankee who fans loved to hate last year is now the one they love, period. When A-Rod hit his 500th career home run—the youngest player ever to do so—the cheering was unanimous. Rodriguez became the 22nd member of the 500-club Saturday, when he hit the first pitch he saw from Kansas Royals Kyle Davies into the left-field seats for a three-run homer. A-Rod had waited eight days and 28 at-bats for the achievement, with sellout crowds all week begging him to whack one more out of Yankee Stadium.The Bronx, like SF, has its ballhawks, even if they don’t do their ball chasing in sailboats and kayaks. A-Rod’s #500 was caught by Walter Kowalczyk, a Rutgers graduate student, amid a frenzied scrimmage in the aisles. After whisking Kowalczyk off the field level, the Yankees tried to negotiate for the return of the ball. Media relations director Jason Zillo said the team offered Kowalczyk various types of autographs and memorabilia; without accepting or declining, the fan said he had to sleep on it. The marked ball was verified and authenticated after Kowalczyk was moved to a private box for the remainder of the game. He left the stadium with the ball in his possession, without speaking to Rodriguez. “I would love to have the ball,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll see what happens.” His helmet from the at-bat will be sent to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., but A-Rod kept the run-hitting bat, the lineup card signed by all the umpires, and his uniform from the game.”Not even washed,” Rodriguez said. “I just took it home.” (Note: The Yankees, after more than three disastrous months when they sunk to 13 games behind the Red Sox, are now a half a game away from being first in the wild card race. Never count the Bronx Bombers out!)

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Tom Glavine Pitches 300th Win

Mets Pitcher Tom Glavine, whose road to glory was as torturous as Bonds’ and A-Rod’s, capped the weekend’s personal bests by winning against the Chicago Cubs, for his 500th career win. The ceremony marking the occasion was the sweetest of all the weekend festivities. Chicago Cubs fans generously gave Glavine a standing ovation when he left the mound in the 7th inning, and after the win they did it again, holding high congratulatory signs and banners. Glavine’s family—mom, dad, wife, son and a bevy of other relatives—were on hand for hugs and kisses. Throughout the game the camera caught the looks on their faces: Mom tense whenever a reliever screwed up; Glavine’s wife alternately smiling and weeping. The man himself was sweetest of all: after he left the mound, he sat quietly in the dugout with a poker face, and when the win came, he was on the verge of a smile, which he struggled to contain. As he walked out onto the field to hug each of his teammates, the smile slowly crept across his face, getting wider with each step, and by the time Glavine reached his tearful wife, his smile was as big as a Mets fan’s heart—and believe me, anyone who can hang with the Mets year in and year out has to be big-hearted. If Glavine turns out to be the last pitcher to reach 500 wins, as many sports pundits predict, it couldn’t happen to a sweeter guy. Mets Manager Willie Randolph deserves special mention for making damn sure the team kept the lead after Glavine left the game, switching relievers every time a Cub hit the ball.

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Hideki Matsui Hits 100

Almost ignored in all the brouhaha, Yankee outfielder Hideki Matsui hit his 100th home run this weekend, making him the first Japanese-born Major League player to do so. Though it garnered hardly a headline in the midst of so much baseball news, you can bet it’s the leading sports story all over Japan–dozens of journalists and photographers from Matsui’s homeland faithfully follow him from game to game.

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Happy Birthday to Mike Greenberg

of Mike and Mike in the Morning. Greenie, as he’s called, turned 40 today, but he says he’s going to tell everyone he’s 50 so they’ll think he’s well-preserved for his years. Constantly teased around the studio for being a male who uses hair products and loofah sponges, Greenie received a child’s card with a pussycat wearing a tiara that read, “Happy Birthday Princess.”

Which brings me to notice the date, August 6th, and another number: it’s the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. As I said above, we are fiddling while Rome burns, but let’s at least take a minute to remember that on this day 60 years ago, and again on August 9th when the U.S. followed up by bombing Nagasaki, thousands of Japanese citizens were killed or maimed in the biggest and most horrifying explosion the world had ever seen. Fallout from the bombings caused long-term and fatal illnesses, and babies born with anomalies, for decades afterwards. It’s somewhat trivializing to talk about Hiroshima as an afterthought to a sports post, so I’ll just recommend the book Hiroshima by John Hersey.

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This weekend was actually full of horrific news, with everything from the nation’s infrastructure to Congressional Democrats collapsing. The state of affairs of this country at this moment in time has not, and should not, be forgotten in the whiz of a flying baseball. I’ll blog more on the news later in the week.

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