THIS YEAR

“Daddy, who is Barry Bonds?”

“Well, son, he’s a baseball player. Not a real nice guy. Kinda surly. He’s trying to break the home run record, 70 in one season.

“Of course, the record doesn’t mean much anymore, seeing as Mark McGwire set it just a few years ago.

“Truth is, son, I can’t get that excited about Bonds. I don’t know. If it happens that often, it’s really not that big a deal, is it? The ball must be juiced. The parks are too small. And Bonds is a jerk. Heck, your dad had a chance to see him play last week and he didn’t even take the tickets. Got the car washed instead.

“Anyhow, I . . . oh, sorry, son, I didn’t realize you’d fallen asleep. Here’s your teddy bear. Good night.”

10 YEARS FROM NOW

“Hey, Dad, you remember Barry Bonds?”

“Of course. You were just a kid when he set the home run record. Remember?”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Well, he was a heck of a player, I’ll give you that. Got right into the Hall of Fame, unanimous, first ballot.

“Of course, not everybody liked him back in ’01. To me, he was OK. Didn’t love him, didn’t hate him. You have to admit, though, 71 home runs is still the record. A whale of an accomplishment.

“Did you know I almost went to that game?”

“Really, Dad?”

“Oh, yeah. I had tickets, but I gave them to a buddy instead.”

30 YEARS FROM NOW

“Grandpa, tell me a baseball story.”

“A baseball story? Hmm. Well. How about the tale of the home run king, Barry Bonds?”

“Barry Bonds?”

“The GREAT Barry Bonds. Carried the bat like a small little stick. And when he came to the plate, pitchers got really scared.”

“Scared? Why?”

“Why? Because he could belt the ball over the wall, that’s why! He hit so many dingers, we lost count. One magical season, he hit 71!”

“Dingers?”

“Yeah. That’s what we used to call them. Anyhow, there were only 162 games back then, which meant he averaged nearly one home run every other game. Isn’t that amazing? Nowadays, with rookies making $80 million per year, no one has that motivation.”

“Did he wear rocket boots?”

“No, that’s a modern invention. He ran with his own legs. Yessir, old Barry Bonds was really something. Say, did I ever tell you about the game I went to when he hit his 71st?”

“You went?”

“Oh, suuuuure.”

50 YEARS FROM NOW

“Hey, Great-grandpa. Whatcha doin’?”

“Trying to figure out this 3-D Viewing Station thing.”

“Aw, it’s easy. Just download Cybon from Zone 76 and frontload it to the Magic Stick slot. That way it floats in front of your eyes and adjusts for your corneas.”

“Huh?”

“Here, let me.”

“Ah . . . ohhh, look at that.”

“What? ‘Games of the 20th Century’?”

“Yes. See that? Baseball?”

“Yeah?”

“You know who that is?’

“That small guy?”

“That’s the legendary Barry Bonds. And back then, he wasn’t considered small. He was the greatest baseball player of my generation. Nobody compared to Bonds.”

“What was so special about him?”

“Well, he was one of the best hitters ever, with eight seasons hitting over
.300. He was a perennial All-Star, an MVP, and, of course, the biggest thing, a mark that has yet to be broken: 71 home runs in a season.

“What a year that was! We watched him go for that record every night back then. We’d stay up late, sitting around the TVs, hoping for news about our hero.”

“TVs! Great-gramps, that’s so quaint!”

“Yeah, well, it wasn’t quaint then. We rooted when the great Bonds came to the plate. ‘Would he do it? Could he do it? YES! Another home run!’ “

“What kind of guy was he?”

“Oh, he was a good guy. A real competitor. Not like the spoiled teenagers playing sports today. He was a first-class gentleman. Brought his wife and kids to the game. Fans cheered him. The night he hit his 71st, well, it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”

“You were there?”

“Of course. I had season tickets. There I was, in centerfield, and he hit his 71st, and the ball was coming my way, and I reached for it, and I almost caught it, but. . . . “

“But?”

“A little kid went for it with his glove, so I let him get it instead.”

“Wow, Great-gramps. That’s amazing! You were there, and you still remember it.”

“Ah, well, who could forget the great Barry Bonds? When a player like that comes along, you appreciate him immediately.”

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760) and simulcast on MSNBC 3-5 p.m.

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