Should Barry wear 42?

By Lucas Deal

A lot has been made recently of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s decision to allow Ken Griffey Jr. and several other major leaguers wear No. 42 on April 15 in honor of Jackie Robinson’s 60-year anniversary of breaking the color barrier in the major leagues.

Since Selig gave the okay to Griffey, several other notable big leaguers have also approached the league office and expressed interest in honoring Robinson by wearing his 42. Among those who have been given clearance to wear the number are Twins centerfielder Torii Hunter, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis and Cubs first baseman Derek Lee.

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However, controversy has recently arisen out of San Francisco after news that Giants slugger Barry Bonds is also interested in trying out Robinson’s old number.

Bonds’ personality has been a lightning bolt for controversy his entire career, but it wasn’t until his record-setting 73 home runs in 2001 Bonds officially became an everyday story. Speculations of human growth hormones and steroid use have swirled around Bonds ever since; and even though he has never tested positive, most MLB fans believe he was and is guilty of having used illegal drugs.

Bonds is now only 20 home runs shy of Hank Aaron’s all-time record of 755 and the league is yet to announce any possible celebration plans for Bonds should he break the record this year. Selig doesn’t want Bonds to break the record, but there’s nothing he can do to stop him. If Barry stays healthy, he’s going to reach 756.

Thus, there is a feeling in the MLB community that because Selig can’t stop Bonds from breaking Aaron’s record that he may stop him from wearing Robinson’s 42. Selig, unable to stop Barry from breaking the league’s most storied record, still apparently thinks he can stop him from scarring the memory of the league’s most influential player.

Selig’s logic makes sense to him in a sick, twisted sort of way, but there’s one problem: it’s just wrong. If Barry wants to wear that jersey, Selig should not be able to stop him – and whether he likes him or not should not, and cannot, make any difference.

That being said, I don’t like Bonds either. I think I’m with most baseball fans in that I honestly believe that Bonds took steroids during his assault on the record books in the summer of 2001. I think he knew what he was doing was wrong and he knew he was cheating – I think he took them anyway.

And I think what Bonds is getting away with is unfair. I think that he’s going break every notable home run record in MLB history and there’s nothing we can do about it.

But that doesn’t give Selig the right to keep Bonds from wearing No. 42. Bonds is an African-American ballplayer who simply wants to honor the player that gave him and all black players a chance to succeed; just like Rollins, Willis and Lee.

Besides, what do steroids have to do with the uniform number Bonds wears? He could wear 13, he could wear 85, he could wear 50; that wouldn’t change what he’s accomplished as a player.

And let’s not fool ourselves; Barry Bonds is one hell of a baseball player. He’s won seven MVP awards and seven Gold Gloves. He’s hit 735 home runs, he’s stolen 510 bases. He’s scored 2155 runs and he’s driven in 1934.

The guy is a first-ballot, sure fire Hall of Famer and even if he would have never taken steroids, he would still be remembered as one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.

I can see how Selig hates how Bonds has tarnished his game. I can where his anger lies and I can’t entirely say I blame him. I hope there will be a way to punish Bonds if he is ever found guilty of cheating and I hope he feels that wrath in its entirety.

I just can’t see how that relates to his uniform number – and I don’t think I ever will.

Lucas Deal is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]