Barry and History: For Teachers

So Barry Bonds is baseball’s new all-time home run king. What do your students think? What kind of questions will they ask? How do you respond? Baseball for the Classroom sat down with Larry Moore, a retired teacher at Central Berkshire Regional School District in Dalton, Massachusetts for 37 years and asked him how teachers respond to curious students about the change at the top of the record books.

BC: Why do you think baseball is held to a standard than other professional sports
as far as…let’s call it "extra-curricular activity?"

LM: It’s definitely because of the tradition baseball enjoys.
Some of those traditions are myths, like Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright but
even as we look at them all we do is find more history. They were great
gentlemen in their own eras, and maybe they don’t have the grass roots
connection to baseball. The Babe Ruths, the Lou Gehrigs, the Ty Cobbs. They
played the game and everybody looked up to them. The early roots of baseball
show that, back in the early 1900s, baseball players were looked at as partyers
and so forth. All of a sudden, we have the legends growing out of that, that’s why
baseball is put on a higher pedestal. Look what they have to do to get in the
Hall of Fame. 75% of voting is hard to get. We haven’t had presidents get 75%
of the vote.

BC: As a lifelong educator, what do you feel is the historical significance of Barry
Bonds’ breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record?

LM: Any time a record like the home run record is broken, there has to be
historical significance. If you take performance-enhancing substances – which
has not been proven yet – you’re supposed to be stronger and faster, but so far studies have
not shown that steroids increase your bat speed and your hand-eye coordination.
Barry was a 5-tool athlete when he joined the Majors, he had great ability. I
don’t think we can take that away from him. Obviously he can hit the ball further
because of his strength, but you still have to get the bat there. Look at the
people we suspect who took steroids. Some of them strike out a lot. Like Jose
Canseco – he hit some long home runs, but he wasn’t one of the greatest home
run hitters of all time.

BC: How do you respond to a student who asks about steroids?

LM: To the student, they believe that something should be done
about steroids. They don’t have the answer – just like we don’t have the answer. If
you start putting asterisks on records, you’re just creating more trouble than
you want to get into. Students feel very strongly that you shouldn’t be putting
something in your body that harm them. There are obvious cases of steroids
having long-term effects on people’s bodies.

BC: What advice do you have for teachers with baseball fans in the classroom who
might have to deal with questions about the legitimacy of
baseball?

LM: If we saw baseball turning their back on any of the problems
they’ve had – gambling in the past and now steroids – that would be one thing, but they do not investigate much differently than anything else is investigated in our society. Some
people call it to the best of their ability, others call it a cover-up. Will we
ever find the truth? I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody does. I reflect
back a little bit to how a family takes care of their own, and I don’t think
baseball is different. There is tradition in the game, as there
is in our families. I think baseball takes care of their own, much like
families do. Look at football veterans who just came out about how they’re not
taken care of. How long has baseball been taking care of their retired players?
Baseball is a well-organized family. Baseball isn’t sweeping the dirt under the
carpet, but more like protecting their family tree.

1 Comment

I just saw this. I’m interested — if you are still keeping up with this blog — what do you think of the move to put an asterisk on the ball that’s going to the Hall of Fame. Is it a justifiable expression of hurt and anger on the part of fans, or the defacement of a historical artifact, or something else? How would you teach that?

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