Now that he has broken baseball’s home run record, the only prize left for Barry Bonds is election to the Hall of Fame.
He’ll be eligible five years after he hangs up his San Francisco Giants uniform for the last time, and the matter of whether he deserves enshrinement will be the bloodiest debate in baseball history.
Because of the steroids cloud hanging over his head – did he or didn’t he? – and because of his crabby personality, there’s bound to be an enormous amount of opposition to the former Arizona State Sun Devil making it to the Hall of Fame.
He will get my vote, begrudgingly.
One plastic card I carry with pride in my wallet says I’m a dues-paying member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, the Hall of Fame electorate.
Unless they kick me out before then, I will have completed the required 10-year membership (in the Arizona Chapter) by the time Bonds’ name is on the ballot.
I dislike the man enormously. His towering arrogance makes him the most loathsome athlete I ever encountered in a sportswriting career of nearly half a century.
But I will vote for the 756 home runs, 510 stolen bases, 1,953 RBIs, lifetime batting average near .300 and a slugging percentage of .610 this remarkable ballplayer has amassed in a career that has stretched across 22 seasons.
The biggest jerk of all time just happens to be the greatest home run hitter.
Barry Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame and no honest voter can ignore that fact. Which is too bad because I’d love to not vote for him.
Did he juice up? Probably, but who knows? And for how long?
Bonds had Hall of Fame numbers before he passed Babe Ruth and went on to break Hank Aaron’s home run record. Like him or not – and make no mistake, most people, including teammates don’t – he is one tremendous athlete.
He is also a symbol of the times.
Face it, heroes are not what they once were (when we didn’t hear the bad stuff about them).
Heroes aren’t alone. Movies are dreadful, most of them at any rate. Some of the drivel that passes for popular music is disgusting.
And in both of these fields, awards are given every year where pink slips – or handcuffs – by all rights should be.
Things simply are not the same, in the classroom, the workplace, the pew or on the ball field.
Grumpy old Barry Bonds is not someone you’d invite home to dinner. He’s not someone you’d even want to be near.
But he’s one of the greatest ballplayers who ever lived and that fact can’t be ignored.
By most accounts, Babe Ruth was a slob, a carouser and a potty-mouth. Ty Cobb’s racist personality has been well chronicled.
They’re both in the Hall of Fame.
Eight players on one of the game’s greatest teams ever, the 1919 Chicago White Sox, including the incomparable Shoeless Joe Jackson, were banned for life for throwing the World Series.
Hal Chase, by most accounts the best fielding first baseman the game has ever seen, was widely believed to have bet on baseball.
A succession of managers complained to team owners and league officials that Chase had deliberately fixed bets and thrown games. It took the discovery of a $500 check given to Chase by a gambler for throwing a game in 1918 to get him out of the game.
Jackson, his crooked teammates and Chase are not in the Hall of Fame. But the point is, baseball has had its share of ugly characters over the years.
Albert Belle was an exceptional, though troubled, baseball player. Terrell Owens, Ron Artest and many other big-time athletes have been dominated by their darker side.
Even the great Willie Mays, Barry Bonds’ godfather, could be a pill at times.
Barry’s father, Bobby Lee Bonds, who died in 2003 at 57, was an outstanding baseball player. A right-handed hitter (Barry hits lefty), Bobby slugged 332 home runs, stole 461 bases, drove in 1,024 runs and had a lifetime batting average of .268. He played for eight teams in a career that lasted from 1968 to 1981.
I was working in Phoenix when Bobby Bonds came up to the Triple-A Phoenix Giants, and nobody in the Pacific Coast League could get him out. He didn’t stay in the PCL for long.
Bobby was legitimately what baseball likes to call a “phenom.”
So, Barry came by his enormous talent naturally. I don’t know where he got his sullen nature.
The coach at a mid-major college in northern California told me several years ago that he had tried to recruit Barry Bonds out of high school but that his academic standing was atrocious.
Barry somehow managed to enroll at Arizona State, though, and was a star. He was built like a rake in those days and was projected to be a singles-hitting speed demon when he got to the majors.
Nobody could have envisioned the 6-1, 228-pound physical specimen he became. Or that he would be a home run-hitting monster.
Personally, I wish Barry Bonds had gone into some other line of work than baseball. It’s my favorite game, it has been a huge part of my life and I hate to see bad people be successful in it.
But Bonds now reigns as the greatest home run hitter the sport has ever had, and he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
For that reason, he will get my vote.
Corky Simpson retired from the Citizen in December. His weekly column usually appears on Saturdays.