There wouldn't be a dugout big enough

Updated: August 3, 2003, 7:09 PM ET
By Ray Ratto | Special to ESPN.com

Wouldn't you kill to imagine Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth as teammates?

Of course you would, and if we know you, you have already prepared a list of worthy recipients.

Babe Ruth
Chances are that Babe Ruth wouldn't have put up with Barry Bonds if they shared the same dugout.
That having been said, now that Bonds has declared again that his real statistical goal is not Willie Mays' 660 homers or Henry Aaron's 755, or even Josh Gibson's 900-some-odd, give or take, but Ruth's 714, the idea of them as teammates is, frankly, too delicious.

And too difficult.

The one (Bonds) is a straight arrow, the other (Ruth) a drinking womanizer (or womanizing drinker) of the first magnitude. The one (Bonds) is reserved and sometimes even combative around the media, someone who never forgets a slight. The other (Ruth) is a charming back-slapper who likes the publicity but never remembers a name.

Frankly, the one (Bonds) is a fair amount like Lou Gehrig.

Nevertheless, the clubhouse isn't what it used to be, neither in terms of creature comforts or privacy, and watching a Bonds-Ruth dynamic would put the well-documented Bonds-Jeff Kent dynamic to shame.

Bonds watching in irritation while Ruth plays the media like a cheap ocarina ... Ruth practicing petty practical jokes on Bonds' chair ... Ruth lefthandedly disparaging Bonds, Bonds dismissing Ruth with "We don't have to be friends, we're teammates."

And watching one of them set a record for intentional walks that won't be broken by two men.

But that's the up-side. The down-side is that, barring personality transplants to one or both of them, it couldn't happen, at least not for long.

There is no manager who could cope with it. Not one. Not Miller Huggins, who tried to guide Ruth. Nor Jim Leyland, who tried to give Bonds limits while tempering his gifts. And not Dusty Baker, who gave both Bonds and Kent the space to be as effective and petulant as they wished.

There isn't even a modern equivalent to Ruth-Bonds. Not Kobe-Shaq, who came to an accommodation right about the time they realized that championship rings hung in the balance. Not Jordan-Pippen, because Jordan was plainly the dominant figure. Nobody.

Barry Bonds
AP Photo/Brian KerseySo the truth finally comes out: That's Babe Ruth who Barry Bonds is pointing toward each time he hits another home run.
Two supremely strong-willed men, neither of whom used to not getting their way, forced by alternative-universe circumstances to co-exist.

Frankly, as entertainment, it ranks somewhere above the Hayashi-Popov poverty-inducing ball auction, but below "American Idol."

It is hard to even imagine a conversation between the two men. Ruth was, by all accounts, fairly easy-going except when someone used his derogatory nickname "Nig," used because there was some suspicion at the time (and now some historical scholarship to indeed suggest) that Ruth was at least part African-American.

Bonds isn't easy anything. He relaxes around kids and players he regards as his peers, but is known mostly for keeping his left up and his right in jabbing position, publicly speaking.

He would not take kindly to Ruth's public relations skills, and Ruth would not take kindly to Bonds' challenges to his statistical supremacy. Each would have his pet media outlets to make their respective cases, and everyone else would spend hours loitering in the clubhouse, waiting for them to go off on each other.

It is, frankly, a lot like Ruth and Gehrig, and Bonds and Kent. Only it would be a more even fight, without William Bendix or Gary Cooper, Mykelti Washington or Gary Sinise, to pretty up a movie on the subject, and it would go on until one, or both, retired.

If all this sounds like we can't imagine them on the same team, we can't. Part of it is the difference in the times in which each lived, the conditions under which each played, and the way each performed. Truth is, it mnight have been mnore fun to watch Ruth pitch to Bonds, rather than interact with him.

But teammates? Sorry, but the very thought causes the enamel to shred off one's teeth.

One would have been traded, or left as a free agent, well before any kind of made-for-SportsCenter denouement. It doesn't take Ed Barrow, or Brian Sabean, to see it any other way. The trade would have been a lousy one because there wouldn't have been any value to be had for either Ruth or Bonds, and the free agent signing would have spectacularly enriched the buyer while impoverishing the seller.

But it would have had to be done, and then we'd all be sitting around wondering, "Gee, I wonder how Bonds and Ruth would have gotten along on the same team." Then we would have had a few horns, laughed about it, and complained about the rising cost of horns.

Then someone would have asked, "Hey, could Superman beat up Wolverine?" or started an argument about whose teen-age kid was a bigger pain in the hinder, and life would have gone on.

And living doesn't get simpler than that.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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