The Bare Bodkin

Aaron’s Tormentors

This summer, as the odious Barry Bonds advanced toward Henry Aaron’s home-run record, I told a friend: “I’m going to write Bonds a letter.  And it’s going to be even more vitriolic than the one I wrote Aaron 30 years ago.”

Just kidding, of course!  When Aaron broke the most venerable record in baseball—then held, of course, by Babe Ruth—his triumph was turned into a nightmare by an avalanche of ugly mail, full of obscenities, racial insults, and even death threats.  I was amazed.  What kind of man does it take to write such a thing at all, let alone carry it through by putting it into a stamped envelope and sticking it into the mailbox?  Wouldn’t self-respect, at some point in the process, stay his hand?

Evidently not.  Thousands of such men (and women?) went to the trouble of discharging their mad spite on poor Aaron via the U.S. Postal Service, though I’ve never heard anyone boast of having done so.  As with restroom graffiti, you know someone is doing it, but you can’t imagine who, since nobody admits it.  Pride of authorship seems to be minimal.  I guess it isn’t the sort of thing one brags about.

My amazement has abated since I got on the internet.  E-mail seems to have liberated the sort of demons that assailed Aaron.  In the free-for-all of cyberspace, people can and do write things...

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