Commentary: Barry Bonds Limps Back Into Baseball’s Spotlight

Retired slugger returns to AT&T Park to applause for what he did for Giants fans.

(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The selection of music seemed strange because, for whatever reason, Barry Bonds doesn’t come across as a Dr. Dre-kinda dude. Yet there Bonds was Wednesday night, limping to the pitcher’s mound at AT&T Park with "The Next Episode" playing in the background.

It wasn’t the choice of music, however, that was most surprising; it was the sight of Bonds in the postseason spotlight that had to catch fans who follow Major League Baseball off-guard. For they have never seen any ballplayer with credentials like his pushed off center stage so quickly.

The greatest slugger in the game’s history, Bonds has been an outcast, a man whose presence in big league ballparks isn’t sought and isn’t much wanted.

The lords of the game, the men who watched blindly as the "Steroids Era" unfolded in front of them, made Bonds unwelcomed. They tried to wipe away reminders of his glorious assault on baseball’s two most sacred records. Yet these same men had once celebrated each of the man’s homers, which came rapid-fire in the summer of 2001 as he sped toward Mark McGwire’s season record and Hank Aaron’s career record.

Once Bonds reached those milestones and passed them, fans cheered as his career became a source of derision. All he had done—his MVPs and his Gold Gloves and his home runs—meant nothing to them. They preferred their heroes to be free of taint, and like so many of the star players from the 1980s and ’90s, Bonds was not.

That’s all the lords of baseball and so many baseball fans want to remember about him: The muscled Bonds used steroids, so anything he achieved wasn’t worth their remembering.

How does anybody who loves baseball forget his summer of 2001? Or that summer day Aug. 7, 2007, when Bonds passed Aaron’s home-run record?

But they have forgotten—everybody, except the fans in San Francisco. They haven’t forgotten Bonds, and perhaps they never will. For no matter what the rest of the baseball world thinks of Bonds, he was, for a while, the best ballplayer the sports world had ever seen.

In San Francisco, he could never be a pariah, no more than Willie Mays or Willie McCovey or Juan Marichal could. Bonds should be a Hall of Famer just as those other Giants legends are.

He is not. He is not because the lords of baseball condemn him to baseball hell because he used steroids to taint their sacred records. He did so in an era when every player in game might have used ’roids. Who can say for sure?

Regardless of what Barry Bonds might have done or did do, he deserves more than what baseball has given him in his life after his last at-bat. He has earned the adulation that came with being the best of his generation.

Most people who followed the game have forgotten that fact. No one in San Francisco can forget it, though. Bonds will forever be their link to summers filled with wonderment.

So, on a mid-October day in autumn, fans cheered as he limped to the mound on a bad hip, wound up and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. He did so while in Giants colors; he did so because the Giants had asked him to; he did so for another night in the public’s eye; he did so for Giants fans, even if those fans outside of Frisco continue to vilify him for what they perceive he did to them—to baseball.

Bonds did nothing to them; he just gave them Technicolor memories.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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