Long before he started juicing in 1999, Bonds was widely despised for never sharing any of his baseball secrets with his teammate. His not unreasonable explanation was that many would soon stop being his teammates and start being his competitors. And Barry certainly had less to gain from exchanging tips with lesser baseball minds — here`s an article on how his pioneering armor-plating of his elbow against being hit by the pitch game him a big mechanical advantage. In the long run, Bonds will be understood as one of the games` most focused technical innovators. His father, Bobby Bonds, was a great physical talent but never quite fulfilled his potential. Barry carefully overcame all his father`s flaws.
Strikingly, the one character flaw that Bonds is seldom denounced in the press for is for his racism. As I pointed out in 2006, the carefully documented book Game of Shadows explains the origin of his juicing: the adulation for the cheating McGwire who is white, was driving him crazy.
On that trip [to McGwire`s St. Louis in May 1998] Bonds began making racial remarks about McGwire to Kimberly Bell [his girlfriend]. According to Bell he would repeat them throughout the summer, as McGwire and Sammy Sosa, the buff, fan-friendly Chicago Cubs slugger who also was hitting home runs at an amazing rate, became the talk of the nation.
"They`re just letting him do it because he`s a white boy," Bonds said of McGwire and his chase of Maris`s record. The pursuit by Sosa, a Latin player from the Dominican Republic, was entertaining but doomed, Bonds declared. As a matter of policy, "they`ll never let him win," he said.
As he sometimes did when he was in a particularly bleak mood, Bonds was channeling racial attitudes picked up from his father, the former Giants star Bobby Bonds, and his godfather, the great Willie Mays, both African-American ballplayers who had experienced virulent racism while starting their professional careers in the Jim Crow South. Barry Bonds himself had never seen anything remotely like that: He had grown up in an affluent white suburb of San Francisco, and his best boyhood friend, his first wife and his present girlfriend all were white. When Bonds railed about McGwire, he didn`t articulate who "they" were, or how the supposed conspiracy to rig the home run record was being carried out. But his brooding anger was real enough, and it continued throughout a year in which he batted .303, hit 37 home runs, made the All-Star team for the eighth time and was otherwise almost completely ignored.
Compare the silence on Bonds` racism (despite how much the media hate him overall) to how, in the grand tradition of the Brezhnev Regime, Major League Baseball, to press adulation, bundled relief pitcher John Rocker off to a mental hospital for saying in 2000 about New York:
"It`s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you`re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It`s depressing."
Saturday Night Live`s Colin Quinn commented, "I hate Rocker, but I have to admit the guy has ridden the 7 train."