Mt. Crushmore welcomes its fourth
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
It towers by the entrance to Valhalla, an unmistakable landmark on the path to immortality. Mt. Crushmore rises 600 knocks high. Countless have tried to scale its craggy facade. Now, four have reached the summit.
Barry Bonds has chiseled his likeness into the face of Mt. Crushmore, joining the slugging deities who will forever loom over baseball. They both cast a shadow over the game's mere mortals, and shine a beacon to light other hopefuls' paths.
Left to right, they are Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and now Bonds. Your four hit men of any pitcher's Apocalypse.
Mt. Crushmore makes molehills of the world's other foreboding mountains. Mt. Fuji? Please, people climb it routinely, just because it's there. Mt.Kilimanjaro? Men and women are racing up and down its sides all the time.Mt. Everest? The slow lane at rush hour time, by comparison.
Every 30 years, Mt. Crushmore is conquered.
In 1931, Babe Ruth was the first to plant his bat at its peak.
It remained Bambino's Mountain for 38 years, until Willie Mays reached the top in 1969 and was followed two years later by Hank Aaron.
And that's the way it stood for 31 years, until Barry Bonds took his 600th step, many of which were accompanied by his skyward gestures, as if to warn the faces looking down from Mt. Crushmore, "Better make room, I'm on my way."
As promised, he has crashed the virtually impenetrable Fort Knocks, in record time.
His predecessors scaled the gradually-sloping side of the mountain, but Bonds took the steep side.
Ruth, whose ascent was the previously fastest, reached the 500-knock level in 1929 and 600 two years later.
Mays spent four years en route from the camps at 500 (1965) and 600 (1969) knocks.
Aaron's pace fell between those two, as he moved past 500 in 1968 and 600 three years later, in 1971.
But no one has conquered those two levels in consecutive years, as has Bonds. The Edmund Hillary of Mt. Crushmore toed the base at No. 500 last April 17 and needed less than 16 months to advance to No. 600.
Bonds thus continues a climb few have survived. At the 500-knock altitude, breathing becomes more laborious and the footing more treacherous. One slip, and it's all over.
The testament to that is overwhelming. When he reached the 500 level, Bonds found the footprints of 16 others who had preceded him there. Yet, he is one of only four to have made it to the next tier.
Right now, four others are crawling up Mt. Crushmore, packing their tacks, ropes, spikes and uppercuts. In the near future Ken Griffey, Jr., Sammy Sosa, Fred McGriff and Rafael Palmeiro may all pull into the 500-knock camp and pitch their tents.
At that point, their forbearers will be glaring down at them, so close yetso far away, daring the claimants to challenge the steepest stretch of the mountain.
600 Club: By the numbers
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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