I couldn't help but think of the music and lyrics of Queen as I watched No. 756 fly majestically into the center field stands. I picture the batter, the lead in our operetta singing:
“I've paid my dues
Time after time
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I've come through”
Then, in chorus, arm in arm with Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Roger Connor, and Harry Stovey, he sings:
“We are the champions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'cause we are the champions -
of the world”
Because that is the truth, they are each home run champions, and each remains a champion, perhaps not of the world, but certainly of their era and it is unfair of any us to treat each in any other fashion. I say this because for me the most perplexing question is not “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” The most impenetrable question here is “which is better, the apple or the orange?” Other than the fact that they are both fruit, they are simply incomparable.
The same thing is true for these home run champions. Other than the fact that they are all great hitters, they are simply incomparable.
We don’t know a lot about Harry Stovey, but we do know that Stovey was the Champion of the Pre-Historic Era. On July 23, 1890, he became the first major leaguer to reach 100 career home runs and while there is some controversy as to the exact total of his career homers, it is now generally accepted that this champion ended with 122 of what today we would call homers. But understand the game was in its seminal stage, played by different rules, with an item often barely recognized as a ball. Nevertheless, he remains a champion because no one of that era hit any more homers than he did.
“I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls
You brought me fame and fortune
and everything that goes with it -
I thank you all
But it's been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
and I ain't gonna lose”
Soon after the Black Sox scandal that resulted in the “fixed” World Series of 1919, the baseball changed from its soft orange feel and there stood the pride of the Big Apple, Babe Ruth. Ruth homered like no one had before him. The ball was alive! The country, the world was enthralled with this man-child with the round face, big smile and prodigious desire for excess. The Babe ate more, drank more, and hit more home runs than anyone had ever done before. He even sped more. On June 9, 1921, the month prior to Ruth’s home run total exceeding Roger Connor’s, he spent four hours in jail for being pulled over for speeding for the second time in six weeks. Upon his release from jail at 4:00, Ruth jumped in his car and, eluding the paparazzi, arrived at the Polo Grounds in time to enter the Yankee game in the 6th inning.
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