Back in 1961, New York Yankees outfielder Roger Maris hit 61 home runs. That broke the mark of 60 home runs that Babe Ruth set in 1927.
Because Maris played in 161 games (out of the 163 played by the Yankees in 1961) and Ruth played in 151 games (out of 155 played by the Yankees in 1927), the Commissioner of Baseball, Ford Frick, ruled that the difference should be noted. And it was. Not by an asterisk, but by a textual notation indicating both records. This is mistakenly -- but commonly -- called "the asterisk." And we'll call it that here.
The asterisk was finally removed in 1991 when Commissioner Fay Vincent ruled that a single record should be recognized. Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician of Major League Baseball, has followed that ruling ever since.
What brought this up?
He's in the news again. This time, there's a New York Daily News story that Bonds failed a drug test (amphetamines) ... then blamed it on Mark Sweeney.
So what's that go to do with an asterisk?
Well, Bonds is the single-season home run leader. He hit 73 back in 2001. But, because of his steroid use, I think he should be banned from baseball and his records purged.
Some disagree with that, to be sure. But I don't care. What Bonds has done is wrong. Performance-enhancing drugs is cheating. I'm not concerned with "legal" or "illegal." I'm more concerned with "right" and "wrong." And cheating is wrong.
So, anyway, Bonds doesn't deserve the record. Because he cheats.
That means that the single-season record belongs to ... Mark McGwire, who hit 70 home runs in 1998.
Oh, wait. McGwire has used performance-enhancing drugs, too. So, his record of 70 is suspect, too.
That means that the single-season record belongs to ... Sammy Sosa, who hit 66 in 1998.
Only, Sosa's been implicated in using performance-enhancing drugs. And he corks his bat. Don't believe me? Okay, fine. But something is responsible for sudden drop in home run power since the corked bat incident and the increased drug testing started.
Which means that Sosa's record is no good.
That means the single-season home run record belongs to ... Mark McGwire who hit 65 in 1999.
Oh, wait. McGwire. No good, remember?
That means the single-season home run record is 64 in 2001, held by Sammy Sosa ... oh, wait. Right. Sosa. No good.
That means the single-season home run record is 63 in 1999, held by Sammy Sosa ... oh, Sosa again.
So, where does that leave us?
61 home runs by Roger Maris in 1961.
How about that!
So, what to do?
I say put an asterisk back against Roger Maris' record.
Only, this time, the notation is "honest home runs."