By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
For A Day, Only The Good Things About Bonds
I swore that when Bonds left the Giants, I would do something extremely difficult. I would spend one day thinking — and writing — just about the good things Bonds did here.
Why? Because we know all about the other stuff. We’ve been talking about it for years. We’ll be debating it years into the future. But none of that obscures what we witnessed.
So. Good things today. Only the good things. Let’s start at the beginning. How about 1993, his first season with the Giants?
That summer, Bonds was the best baseball player I’ve ever seen. Hands down. And I’ve seen a lot of hands in my 30 years covering the sport.
Bonds will always be considered the face of the Giants during his years with the franchise. But in that 1993 season, he was a wonder. His 46 home runs and .336 batting average spoke for themselves. However, I had not realized how superior Bonds was defensively — or as a baserunner — until I could observe his work every day.
It’s hard to believe now, as you watch his massive body doing the dinosaur stomp around left field. But back then, a leaner Bonds routinely turned doubles into singles by cutting off line drives into the gap. His throwing arm was a strong and accurate dagger.
Meanwhile, on offense, he stole 29 bases, not bad for someone who had only 41 singles (his other 88 hits went for extra bases) and 126 walks. He routinely went from first to third.
He continued this way for six or seven more seasons. But like many aging players, he quickly came to realize that power pays the bills. He realized that the way to stay in the game was to keep hitting as many home runs as possible. That’s probably why he called up the Balco office and …
Nope. Won’t go there. Not today. Only good things.
You can’t proclaim that Bonds was the person most responsible for the Giants’ new ballpark in China Basin. The team’s owners took the risks, pulled the switch on the deal. But you can definitely say that Bonds was the biggest reason so many of the new ballpark’s seats were filled.
Through the ongoing extra-curricular drama, Bonds’ plate appearances as a Giant were an art form. They were can’t-miss theater: The dawning of the elbow armor. The refusal to leave the batter’s box between pitches. The patience of waiting for exactly the right pitch, waiting, waiting, waiting until … there went another ball high into the night.
Those at-bats are what I’ll remember most, whether they occurred while pursuing a record or otherwise. I am guessing that plenty of you feel the same way. You know the self-promoting bozo who recently paid $750,000 for Bonds’ record home-run ball? That bozo has no clue. That bozo will never own what we own: Memories of the way time seemed to stop when Bonds batted.
See, I can do this. Good things. Only good things. In fact, I am prepared to admit that I actually saw Bonds be nice to elderly fans and kids on occasion. Heck, he even showed up at one of our son’s Archbishop Mitty High basketball games — not because of him, obviously, but because Mitty was playing at Serra High, Bonds’ alma mater. Bonds stayed to the final buzzer, applauded the players, shook some hands.
Of course, when I approached Bonds a few weeks later at spring training and told him that, speaking purely as a father, I appreciated him supporting high school kids, he kind of sneered at me and sarcastically said. …
No. Not today. Not going to go there. Good things. Only good things.
So let’s quickly talk about 2001, when he hit 73 home runs. No matter how history judges that achievement in retrospect, the spectacle was stunning to behold — and emotions inside the ballpark only multiplied following Sept. 11. When Bonds hit No. 71 the same night the Giants were eliminated from playoff contention, he wept at a postgame ceremony.
Watching Bonds over the years, I developed a sense for when he was putting on an act and when he was being sincere. Those tears were real. I believe there actually is a human being inside that hard crust, even if he never allowed us to take the ride with him. There is likely to be more drama in his final week with the team. Bonds’ goodbye website statement was typical, claiming he isn’t better but implying that he is angry.
Whatever. For one day, he should give it a rest. So should we. Let’s acknowledge a man who — almost by himself — made Bay Area sports such a compelling landscape over the past 15 years. There were many bad things along the way. But today, if for only a few minutes, we should put them on the shelf. Let’s pull out the good china, the good stuff. And remember how remarkable it was to see on full display.