Saturday, July 7, 2012

Rodriguez Ties Gehrig’s Grand Slam Record

But I don’t care what anybody says, there is one baseball record that will never be broken. It’s stood since 1926. It’s Babe Ruth’s record for home runs hit in a single game as a promise to a crippled boy, either real or imagined. Babe hit three. Even Lou Gehrig couldn’t break that record. He only hit two.

It’s all well-documented in the Hollywood movies made about Ruth and Gehrig. Ruth visits a crippled boy named Johnny and promises to hit a home run for him. He hits three and in the World Series no less. Gehrig visits a crippled boy named Billy and promises to hit a home run for him. Obstinate little Billy isn’t satisfied with just one home run though. He wants Gehrig to hit two. So the Iron Horse agrees, as long as Billy agrees in return to work real hard so he can walk again. That must be exactly what happened. Hollywood would never stretch the truth about something like that.

Babe’s record will stand forever because ballplayers don’t promise crippled boys home runs that much these days. That’s probably a good thing because imagine if a slugger had visited a crippled boy about 10-15 years ago, when everybody was popping steroids. That slugger would have stepped to the plate stoked up not just by ‘roids but also by an even more potent force, the inspiring courage of a crippled boy. And he probably would have hit 15 home runs in that game. From then on, all the crippled boys would have raised the stakes. The next slugger to come along would have to hit 20 home runs in a game so as not to disappoint the crippled boy and so on and so on. Future sluggers would have had to juice harder and harder just to keep up.

Ruth and Gehrig share another home run record that will never be broken. It’s the record for the number of crippled boys, real or imagined, miraculously cured by their home runs. The record is one. Both Johnny and Billy got better. Billy, as the movie shows, even appears at Yankee Stadium to show Gehrig that he can now walk and to thank him. Everybody talks about Lou Gehrig’s disease, but nobody talks about the Lou Gehrig cure. I can’t help but wonder how history might have changed had somebody gone out and hit a home run for Lou Gehrig.

Any player who wants to set a new record in the category of home runs inspired by a cripple will have to be creative about it. He might have to go visit a crippled girl.