Here is the column I wrote for the San Francisco Examiner that got me on Barry's good side, and helped him decide to go with me on the autobiography deal. For a while, at least.
Outlined against a grey night sky, one of the Bay Area's own made history last night.
Barry Bonds is the son of Barry, the Godson of the "Say Hey Kid", and according to a few, a son of maybe something else. He of Serra High, Arizona State, Pittsburgh and Pac Bell is, above all, a son of San Francisco. If ever baseball royalty graced the Elysian Fields of the Golden West, it is Bonds.
500 home runs! Some people say it does not mean what it used to mean, what with smaller yards, steroids, weights, and a lack of good pitching.
Gimme a break!
Barry Bonds already is considered by many to be the greatest player in baseball.
"Barry stays motivated to be the best in the game," says Giants' Manager Dusty Baker, who makes no bones about the fact that he thinks Bonds, with all due respect to Ken Griffey, Alex Rodriguez and the Usual Suspects, is just that.
Bonds entered the most elite home run club in baseball with insouciance and arrogance. Do not get me wrong, Bonds' arrogance on the field is the good kind.
We need more of it.
Hey, if a player says it his goal to win the MVP award, or lead the league home runs, he should be encouraged in this regard. After all, if he is that good, it will help his team win.
"I'm not arrogant," says Barry, "I'm good."
That is no lie. This guy has T-A-L-E-N-T. The ability not only to play like he does, but to do it year after year, is monumental. It is, quite simply, why a few fellows get the big bucks.
"Barry's got 500 homers," says Baker, "but a lot of guys have hit a lot of homers. He gets a lot of hits, too. He steals bases. He plays hurt."
For years, Bonds has played through injuries, road trips, winning and losing seasons, and personal discord. Between the lines, he is one of the greatest athletes this great nation has ever produced.
When it comes to playing baseball, there are few superlatives that do not apply. What eludes him is The Ring. If he can get it, and particularly if he can lead his team to the Promised Land in the manner of a DiMaggio, a Ruth, even a Reggie Jackson, his status will be elevated to the loftiest perch of the Hall of Fame.
Is it a shame that post-season success is the final barrier that separates the Great from the Truly Great? No, because they play to win.
Bonds plays to win. He is a regular season wonder. His Play-Off disappointments are as hard to take for him as for fans, writers or baseball people. Are these blips in his career indicative of a fault, a flaw, a chink in the armor?
Not at all. Baseball is a funny game. It is also a hard, hard game. There is no other sport than invites failure like baseball. You have to have a little bit of self-masochism in you to endure its indignities, like an actor who keeps coming back but never gets the big role, or the screenwriter with 500 rejection letters.
Bonds has had a few bad days in October. This is happenstance. Timing. Some day he will hit three home runs and bat .400 to lead his team into the Big Dance, and he will not be any less courageous than he is now. Was Sparky Anderson less smart in the years his teams did not win than the seasons they did? Of course not.
Bonds, like Ted Williams, is misunderstood, mostly because he is not as likeable as the guy who sells you insurance or serves up cold ones at the corner bar. He has it all, and some envy him for that.
Here is a guy raised around Major League ballparks, chillin' with Willie Mays and Stretch. His ability made him special from the get-go, and when you are Big Man On Campus sometimes it goes to your head.
Okay, it went to his head, but Bonds' name has never appeared in a police blotter, and you do not hear about him pulling the kind of stunts that Gary Sheffield did in Spring Training, when he threatened not to play as hard unless the Dodgers re-negotiated his contract.
You want to know something? After he retires, when the pressure is off and the reporters are not after him every second, Bonds will be a great interview, and he will be able to reflect on a career that places him among the very best the diamond game has ever known.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism