Single page view By Scoop Jackson
Page 2

At some point, the question has to be asked. But it won't be.

We're too caught up, too in love with the moment.

Baseball did this to us before. In 1998. With Sosa and McGwire. But this has nothing to do with steroids or flaxseed oil.

It has everything to do with history. His story and mine.

Why in the name of Jim Brown did he have to pick that bat up again?

"It's that ghost that I chase... "

He stepped to the plate. Black man, black lumber in hand. GIGANTES across his chest.

He'd been there so many times before, but this was like the first time. He had missed 142 games in this baseball year. When he released the black plastic cap from his shaved dome for less than a second to reintroduce himself to us, the 39,095 who were there to see him made him understand how we feel about him without ever saying a word.

Like Terminator X: We speak with our hands.

His hands spoke back. Eleven pitches in. Coming less than a foot away from Ruthian Home Run No. 704. The number that momentarily flashed across the SBC Park scoreboard and on the FSN Bay Area's broadcast ... until they realized that Steve Bartman left his glove in San Francisco. It was a double instead of a home run.

He'd score off the next hitter's bat. Get the greeting he deserved from teammates, some of whom might despise him but watched from the dugout in awe, nonetheless. He'd address the ball a few more times before the night was over. Elevating stitched leather and hope for a city that knew in April that there is crying in baseball, regardless of what Tom Hanks says.

Afterwards, he sat in a chair in a muted UCLA-colored striped polo shirt with a Chris Laub-issued rubber arm bracelet on his right wrist. He answered questions. And while everyone held on to every word he said, none of us paid attention to his wrist.

The answer is in the bracelet.

As he left the building, someone asked him: Will we see you tomorrow? Black lumber, black cap?

"That's why I'm here," he said back. Then he was gone. Until tomorrow.

I can't lie. I never wanted to see Barry Bonds come back. I never wanted to see Monday night. Never wanted to see him pick up a bat again. Never wanted to see him hit another home run.

I wanted him to retire. Shut it down. I wanted to see him ride out telling the world to kiss his natural, ashy black ... bat.

I wanted him to keep us guessing, wondering, speculating. I wanted the false speculating to continue, the unfounded evidence to keep getting printed and reported, the smoke to keep proving that there is no fire.

But ... on the day after the (almost) greatest football player ever (Jerry Rice) didn't play for the first time in 20 years, and on the same day the (more distant almost) best hockey player ever (Mark Messier) called it quits, the (without question) greatest baseball player ever decided step back into the batter's box and add Deuteronomies to the King James version he's been scripturing since the day he was born.

Which is why he was born.

Born to play baseball. Nothing else, no other reason.


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