He deserves it.

Whether they feel he took steroids or not, and whether or not they like him, people around Lewiston-Auburn still believe that Barry Bonds deserves his place in history as the all-time home run king.

For now.

“I just hope they aren’t convicting him in the newspaper yet,” Dick Small, 65, of Readfield, said.

Small knows a few things about the game, too. He’s a long-time professional scout.

“Find me any bigger feat in sports than being the home run champion,” Small said rhetorically.

There was a long pause, and then Oxford Hills Athletic Director and president of Auburn Suburban Little League Jeff Benson joined in.

“Other than a 56-game hitting streak (by Joe DiMaggio in 1941), probably none,” Benson said.

“There you go, there’s your answer,” Small quipped. “Probably none.”

Benson and Small were taking in Day 4 of the six-day Little League state finals at ASLL, watching baseball in its purest form.

“When McGwire was going after Maris’ record, and busted it, that’s all we could talk about,” Benson said. “Now that Bonds is going after Aaron’s record, we didn’t hold the same scrutiny to Mark McGwire that we’re holding to Bonds on this case. Until someone tells me different, you’ve got to tip your cap to the guy and say, ‘You’ve accomplished what you set out to do.’ If they find it different, well then that’s a whole other issue.”

“Come and see me after that,” Small added.

Small recalled a moment he had with Bonds’ bather, Bobby, in the mid-1980s.

“Quite a few years ago, I was at Yankee Stadium for a game,” Small said. “Bobby Bonds was there, and we were talking about hitters. He said, ‘I know of one that’s coming up soon who’s pretty good.’ I said, ‘Who’s that?’ And he said, ‘My son.'”

Benson and Small agreed much has changed about the game, and just because Bonds might have broken the record now, doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be broken again.

And soon.

“I guess the only records that may not get broken, I don’t think you’ll have a 56-game hitting streak, nor will you see Cy Young’s record for wins broken,” Benson said. “Those two may be untouchable. And I think the days of having a team be a true dynasty are done, just because of the money and the free agency.”

And while Bonds may not be at the tip of everyone’s tongue here on the East Coast, and certainly not deep in the heart of Red Sox country, the mention of his name will incite a conversation virtually anywhere.

“He’s going to get the record but it’s going to be tainted,” said Darrell Muldoon, a patron at Little Joe’s in Lewiston. “He’ll get it, but I don’t know how he’ll feel about it. I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there who will think it was done right, and who am I to say it wasn’t?”

Across the bar, Kenny Daigle Jr. had a different take.

“I think it’s great, I hope he does it,” Daigle said. “People always target the best player anyway. If he was on the Red Sox, the fans around here would love him around here. That’s a fact.”

Down the road, Lewiston resident Ray Provencher had yet another take on the situation.

“It’s the record,” Provencher asserted. “So many players were doing (steroids), that you could never figure it all out. You could never say this one was, and this one wasn’t. It’s his record. It’ll probably be broken by A-Rod, but it’s his record. It’s tainted, but it’s his record. He’s still a great ball player.”

Even Muldoon conceded that steroids aside, Bonds still has plenty of big-league talent.

“Steroids doesn’t make you hit the ball,” Muldoon said. “It might make you be able to hit it a little harder, but the first object is to … connect with the ball. I don’t care how many ‘roids you’re doing, if you don’t have the talent, you aren’t going to do it.”

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