Every diamond child of the '70s, '80s, and '90s can recite certain baseball records to the very last percentage point. Some numbers become indefatigable: 3,000 hits, a .406 average, and 61-turned-70-turned-73 home runs. So when Barry Bonds toppled Henry Aaron's immortal 755 career homers in 2007, it still felt somewhat hard to grasp. That number is gone? The big one, right up there with Cy Young's 511 wins and Bobby Cox's 578,389 career ejections (estimated)? Yup. It really happened. Barry Bonds, who'd already rebuffed Mark McGwire's recent addition to the record books to become the single-season home run king, took the whole damned crown, 12 years ago today.
Though, at the time, I didn't think Bonds' record would stick with me quite as much as those I perused in the yellowed-out pages of my old Baseball Almanac, I can still tell you from memory that he hit this moonshot off Mike Bacsik, a former Mets prospect of the early 2000s, getting the first consistent run of his career with the Washington Nationals in '07. Sometimes, dual-signed items of the two people responsible for an iconic moment make for a special keepsake.
I would not want Mike Bacsik anywhere near my Barry Bonds ball.
This is the rare mark that eclipsed greatness, but allowed greatness to stay thriving -- after all, ask any baseball historian, fan, or hanger-on. Aaron's mark hasn't lost any of its luster, and many still consider Hammerin' Hank the true Home Run Champion of All Time, and always will.
But Bonds had greatness imbued upon him as well from the moment he stepped on a baseball field, and he can carry this mark with him forever. A generation from now, it'll be the one in the books. It'll be the one children learn.