Sen. Byron Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, has let it be known that if he could wield the power of the Senate to make it so, favorite son Roger Maris still would hold the major league record for home runs in a season.
Dorgan sponsored legislation, however meaningless, to recognize Maris’ 1961 mark of 61 home runs as the true record.
The official record of 73 set by Barry Bonds in 2001 would just be ignored. Likewise, the 70 hit by Mark McGwire in 1998 and the 65 he hit the next season. The 66 hit by Sammy Sosa in 1998? Forgotten, just like the 63 Sosa hit the next year and the 64 he hit in 2001.
Turn back the clock, as if none of it ever happened.
“Some of us think [Maris’] home run record still stands, and that is a sad comment on steroids and baseball,” Dorgan said during Senate hearings on the subject last year.
Dorgan isn’t alone. The North Dakota state legislature last year passed a resolution urging baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig to reinstate Maris’ record.
But if momentum is building for action, it is growing in circumstances that might not satisfy Maris supporters, either: Another major leaguer is threatening to surpass Maris’ mark.
With a month left in the season, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has 53 home runs and stands a very good chance of passing Maris.
That raises a question: Would Dorgan and others recognize Howard’s total as the record if he indeed passes Maris?
I called Dorgan’s office to see if he would consider Howard’s total legitimate, given today’s stricter steroid testing in baseball. “I haven’t heard him talk about it,” a spokesman said.
He’d better start talking about it, because it will be a topic of conversation in the closing weeks of the season. Howard’s run again will call attention to Dorgan’s bid to recognize Maris’ mark — even though, ironically, it might mean Maris would no longer hold the record.
Unless, of course, there are questions about Howard, too, even with baseball’s stricter testing policies. It is difficult not to have questions anymore, though I suspect people will want to believe what they are seeing is real, just as they did in 1998.
Howard’s push toward the Maris mark just adds to the muck baseball finds itself knee-deep in when it comes to its precious statistical records.
There is no known hard evidence that McGwire or Sosa used performance-enhancing substances to produce those record home run numbers, though the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. And with both men out of baseball, there is no urgency to investigate either one.
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