NEW YORK (AP) - Fay Vincent has this advice for Bud Selig: Stay away!
Vincent said the man who succeeded him as baseball commissioner should not be in the ballpark if and when Bonds hits his 756th home run to break Hank Aaron's career record.
``He has every right to say: I'm willing to congratulate him but I don't honor him by presence,'' Vincent said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press during spring training.
Selig, a good friend of Aaron, has refused to say whether he'll attend games as Bonds nears the record. Bonds was 10 home runs shy of Aaron going into Tuesday night's game.
Bonds has been the target of a federal grand jury investigating whether he perjured himself when he reportedly testified in 2003 that he never knowingly used steroids.
``I think if nothing changes ... I would say to Bonds: Because you haven't told us what you did, because we assume and because we believe you cheated and because you haven't helped clean baseball up, we will recognize your record but we will not honor you,'' Vincent said. ``It's sort of an asterisk in the public eye.''
Vincent thinks Bonds' achievement will be tainted in the minds of many because of the questions of steroids use.
``I think the commissioner would say: We're not going to put an asterisk there but everybody knows what happened, everybody recognizes what the circumstances are,'' Vincent said.
Peter Ueberroth, the other living former commissioner, indicated he would have acted long before Bonds approached Aaron's mark. In 1986, Ueberroth suspended 11 players implicated in drug use but allowed them to keep playing if they donated parts of their salaries to drug prevention.
``My policy is to support, not second guess, any sitting commissioner,'' he said Tuesday. ``As far as the player in question is concerned, I would not have had the issue. Hank Aaron is the record-holder.''
In 1974, commissioner Bowie Kuhn was criticized when he wasn't at the ballpark the night Aaron hit No. 715 to break Babe Ruth's record. Kuhn attended the game when Aaron hit No. 714.
Selig said during spring training that if Bonds surpasses Aaron, ``it will be handled the same way that every other record in baseball that's been broken was handled.''
Vincent sent a memo to clubs in June 1991 stating that players possessing, selling or using illegal drugs - including steroids - were subject to discipline, but any penalty imposed on a player prior to the 2002 agreement likely would not have withstood a union challenge.
In light of the steroids accusations, Vincent believes praising Bonds would be bad for the sport.
``I think honoring Bonds is not going to play well in the present record. If Bonds were to change his mind, hire a very good lawyer, go public, and say: `Look, I did what I did, I'm sorry,' a la Bill Clinton or Jason Giambi, the American public would turn immediately supportive, and Bud's situation would have to change,'' Vincent said. ``I keep hoping that Bonds will do that. I think the odds of him doing it are very, very low.''
Vincent credits Selig with making the right move in hiring former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell to investigate steroids use in baseball. Thus far, active players have not been interviewed and only a few have submitted requested medical records. The players' association has said cooperation is an individual decision.
``I think the union is making a huge mistake. I think stonewalling Mitchell as a strategy is an enormous mistake. It pushes Bud and George Mitchell to consider going to Congress,'' Vincent said. ``I think that it's important for Mitchell to be able to write the real story and tell us what happened and what didn't happen, and how many players were involved. I don't think the issue is, should there be punishment?''
Baseball and the players' association didn't agree to ban steroids until after the 2002 season. Testing with penalties didn't start until 2004 and the current rules - a 50-game suspension for a first offense - didn't start until last year. The toughened penalties followed a congressional hearing in March 2005 during which Mark McGwire refused to say whether he took performance-enhancing drugs. Sammy Sosa also appeared at the hearing along with Rafael Palmeiro, who was suspended later that year following a positive drug test.
``The Mitchell report is a very important document,'' Vincent said. ``Among other things, he's got to dispel all these people who believe that baseball knew what was going on, that they didn't do anything about it because they wanted to encourage Sosa, McGwire. It's a very widely held view. I don't think they knew. I don't think there's any smoking gun.''

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