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Published: Wednesday, 10/10/2001

Barry and Rickey's big show

In the grand scheme of things, the terrifying events of Sept. 11 and the war on terrorism matter a lot more than Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson.

But maybe the stunning accomplishments of these two baseball stars during the last few days may provide a bit of diversionary excitement for a country still reeling from the reality of its own vulnerability.

Bonds ended the 2001 season with a flourish, not only beating Mark McGwire's three-year-old record for home runs but obliterating it. Bonds finished with 73, three more than McGwire's mark set in 1998, when 70 was considered a new standard that would endure forever.

And Henderson reached two milestones, recording his 3,000th hit on the season's final day and passing Hall of Fame immortal Ty Cobb in runs scored in a career. He's already baseball's all-time stolen base leader.

One downside to both men's achievements, especially Bonds', is that a nation still grappling with grief and fear had other things on its collective minds. Gone from Bond's chase of McGwire's record were the drama and excitement that accompanied McGwire's breathtaking battle with Sammy Sosa three years ago.

And beyond Bonds and Henderson, the game said good-bye on Sunday to two other splendid performers, Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn, both of whom retired after marvelous careers.

Sports quite rightly retreated from the limelight after the terrorist attacks, but the resumption of play after a respectful interlude was both appropriate and necessary.

Professional athletes have acquitted themselves well during this crisis, demonstrating that, yes, they are Americans first. Great players like Bonds, Henderson, Ripken, and Gwynn deserved to hear the cheers again.

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