Monday, October 01, 2007

It's Bye-Bye, Barry

image courtesy of

The title of this column is taken from Hall-of-Famer Lon Simmon's, long-time "voice of the Giants" radio announcer, call whenever a Giant hit a home run: "It's bye-bye, baby!" And Barry Bonds certainly hit plenty of them while wearing a Giant's uniform.

I have mixed emotions about Barry leaving--as a friend pointed out over the weekend, I feel much like I did when the 49'ers let Joe Montana go. I understand that baseball is a business and Barry is more of a liability than an asset at this point. The Giants are a National League team and there is no DH spot.

Still, if Yankee Stadium is the House that Ruth Built, Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T Park is the House that Bonds Built. There were sellout crowds the first four years after the stadium was built--and that wouldn't have happened without Barry. In fact, that whole area of the City (known as South Beach/China Basin) has been rejuvenated because of the stadium (and the 1989 Earthquake that demolished the freeway). Love him or hate him, Barry brought attention to the game and put fans in the seats. There was a sellout crowd for his final game in a Giants uniform--which would not have happened in an otherwise disappointing season. Even before then, when there was a glimmer of hope, when Barry came up to bat, cameras and phones came out to capture his stance, his swing. You never knew if he was going to hit a homer or where that homer would land.

And when he was younger, you never knew when he was going to steal.

The saddest part about the steroid scandal is that Barry had real talent. He had Hall of Fame numbers before he allegedly started taking steroids. And, rumor has it, he started taking them because he was jealous of the attention Mark McGwire was receiving during his run after Roger Maris's record.

I think there's a deeper reason: all Barry has, really, is baseball.

Unlike other Bay Area sports celebrities, Barry is not personable. He has no chance of making commercials or endorsements, even locally. He's burned Bay Area sportswriters and sportscasters; he's burned his teammates. (He had the same reputation in high school.)

But he seems to have had a good relationship with his dad, Bobby Bonds. Barry took time off to be by his dad's bedside during his fight with cancer--while the Giants were making a run for the National League title. After his dad died, Barry made the gesture pictured at the top of the post after every home run, acknowledging his dad.

And then Barry heads to the dugout to give his son a hug and a kiss. The son who is now almost as tall as his dad.

For many years, Barry wore the same earring on game day. It was a cross--and the cross belonged to his grandfather.

And Barry is very respectful towards his godfather, Willie Mays, and another great, Willie McCovey, acknowledging their skill and their importance to the game.

But his divorce from his first wife was spectacularly nasty. And it played across the sports pages of the local papers. That must have been difficult to deal with.

I wish Barry well. I hope he finds happiness--maybe with another team, a team that has a chance to win a World's Series and give Barry the ring he's missing. I hope he finds inner peace and a purpose beyond baseball. Maybe not coaching, but maybe scouting for new talent. For the next skinny kid with uncanny eye-hand coordination.

I hope the Giants will be able to use some of their freed up payroll and hire some decent pitchers. And honor Barry when he enters the Hall of Fame as (I hope) a Giant.