Sure, you had a surly attitude toward the media, but so did Ted Williams; so, that can’t be the reason. And Cobb was lucky to get in before the “sportsmanship” clause was invented.
The truth is that you were never convicted of using steroids, so that can’t be the reason.
So maybe you assume it’s simply good old Racism American Style; that same virulent plague of prejudice that maybe kept your dad out of the Hall; the same shameful national ignorance that kept blacks out of the Majors until 1947.
You concluded that, despite some progress, racism really hasn’t changed in America and that — although you are the record holder for career home runs and homers in a season– racism will keep you locked out of the Hall of Fame, like black players on the bus at a Jim Crow restaurant.
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and they said your father, the supremely talented Bobby Bonds, had a “chip on his shoulder” about racism. And maybe you think that the white power structure of MLB disdained his recalcitrant posture, his “uppity” attitude, and kept him moving him from team to team. And, while the song “Talkin’ Baseball” honored other players, all it said about your dad was: “And Bobby Bonds can play for everyone.”
But, maybe you believe it wasn’t arrogance, it was simply his pride resisting inequality; no doubt, his struggle with alcoholism hampered his superior talent and performance on the field, and shot at the Hall of Fame.
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and Willie Mays, who played in the Giants’ outfield with your dad, is your godfather and idol; he is in the Hall of Fame and universally loved by fans, players, media and the Giants’ franchise, that honored him by appointing him a Special Assistant the to the team President in 1986, your first year in MLB.
In San Francisco, every June 24th is “Willie Mays Day.”
Bur you wonder: Will you ever have your day?
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and you are sulking, because it’s not fair that maybe just the “taint of steroids” is being used as an excuse to keep you out of the HOF. And, since nobody ever proved you used steroids before 2003 and you tested clean after that year–it has to be the racism amidst those writers in the Baseball Writers of America Association.
And you ask yourself: How many of them are white? So maybe you believe that you are the victim of that same stain of rampant racism that made the Negro Leagues necessary?
Before you were born:
Hall of famer Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947.
Hall of famer Larry Doby broke the color line in the American League in 1947.
Hall of famer Satchel Paige was the first black pitcher in an American League game in 1948.
Hall of famer Buck O’Neil became the first black coach in 1962.
Hall of famer Willie Mays was the first black player chosen to be a team captain in 1964.
[# more black historical firsts in baseball here.]
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and you began your MLB career with the Pirates in 1986 and you pulled on your uniform and, emulating your dad, you too wore a “chip on your shoulder.”
You grew up in San Carlos, a safe and secure town in San Mateo country, one of the top five most affluent in the United States. You were revered and admired by the predominantly white, upper middle-class student body. You attended a prestigious college, Arizona State University, known as a stepping stone to professional baseball. You graduated in 1986 with a degree in criminology.
In 1993, you came home and signed a lucrative free agent contract worth a then-record $43.75 million over 6 years with the Giants. You were making $7.3 million a year, while the median household income for whites was $49,000, for blacks $32,000. It would take that average white household 150 years to make 7.3 million dollars that you were making it in just six years.
But maybe you think: “Hell, I’m Barry Bonds—I’m worth it!”
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and you caused a furor when you said you wanted to break Ruth’s record  but wouldn’t mind falling short of Aaron’s  and you said:
“This is something we, as African-American athletes, live with every day…I don’t need a headline that says, ‘Bonds says there’s racism in the game of baseball.’ We all know it. It’s just that some people don’t want to admit it. They’re going to play dumb like they don’t know what the hell is going on.”
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and you remember when Commissioner Selig would not attend any games, where you might pass Aaron. You also know that former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn’s refused to be in attendance when Hank Aaron, who played in the Negro Leagues, broke Babe Ruth’s record in 1974.
You remember that, as late as 2007, Baseball Commissioner “Nip It In The” Bud Selig claimed–with a straight face– that he wasn’t even aware that steroids were a problem, although he had banned them in 2003.
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and maybe you believe that hateful racists lurk in the darkness of America; and maybe for good reason.
In 1993, according to the book Tales from the White Sox Dugout, while you were in the visiting clubhouse in Wrigley Field, former White Sox outfielder Ron Kittle claims he approached you and asked to sign two jerseys you had worn in games, so that Kittle could auction them for Indiana Sports Charities, his philanthropy helping kids with cancer.
Previously, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens had gladly signed.
Kittle wrote that he said:
“Barry, if you sign these, they’ll bring in a lot of money for kids who need help.”
According to Kittle, you stood up, looked him in the eye and said:
“I don’t sign for white people.”
Kittle says that Matt Williams and other Giants were in the room and they heard what you said.
When a confrontation seemed imminent, your team mate, the soft-spoken 3rd baseman Matt Williams, came over and got between you and Kittle and said:
“Ron, that’s just the way he is.”
In 2005, when asked about the quote, you said:
“Who is Kittle? How long did he play? He played in our league? Do you guys know my life history a little bit? …I was married to a woman who was white, so let’s get real. I don’t even know the guy. Tell him he’s an … idiot. Somebody said he wanted a piece of me. Tell him I’m at 24 Willie Mays Plaza and he can come get me anytime he wants to — with pleasure. Don’t insult my family.”
In 1998, when Mark McGwire was hitting home runs on a pace to break Roger Maris’ record of 61 in a season, you smelled a racist conspiracy.
“They’re just letting him do it because he’s a white boy,”
you complained to your girlfriend, according to the book, Game of Shadows.
In 2004 you told the Boston Globe: “Boston is too racist for me… I couldn’t play there…but that’s been going on ever since my dad [Bobby] was playing baseball. I can’t play like that. That’s not for me, brother.”
When it was suggested the racial climate has changed in Boston, you replied:
“It ain’t changing…It ain’t changing nowhere.”
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and you wonder why 569 baseball writers—almost all white—gave Craig Biggio the #1 slot with 388 votes [68.2%] and only 206 [36.2%] voted for you, the MLB leader with 762 career home runs and 73 home runs in a season.
You read in 2001 that Saber Master Bill James ranked you as the 16th greatest player of All-Time; James also said you were the best player in the 90′s by a huge margin. And you were dissed by 569 baseball writers; one BBWA dope even voted for Aaron…Aaron SELE.
[ED. NOTE: Also denied entrance into the Hall of Fame were Mike Piazza, who admitted that he briefly used androstenedione early in his career, and Roger Clemens, who was acquitted of perjury, when he denied steroid use.]
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and maybe you wonder: Am I just the latest African-American athlete to suffer the effects of racism, similar to the experience of Jackie, Willie, and Hank?
Or is the hate directed toward me a product of the false public impression that I used performance-enhancing drugs?
Or did they not vote for me because I’m a convicted felon?
Or could I be paying the price for my career of surly behavior toward team mates, fans and the media?
Regarding the steroids charges, Giants managing partner Peter Magowan said: “I don’t believe this is a case of racism. In fact, I think this shows how far we’ve come. If the media brought this up 20 years ago, they would have been considered racists.”
Regarding breaking Ruth’s home run record:
“To black America, this is just another example of the judicial system trying to railroad an African-American male,” asserted LSU Associate Professor, and added:
“White America doesn’t want him to (pass) Babe Ruth and is doing everything they can to stop him…America hasn’t had a white hope since the retirement of (NBA star) Larry Bird, and once Bonds passes Ruth, there’s nothing that will make (Ruth) unique, and they’re scared. And I’m scared for Bonds.”
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and you remember that story around 2007 that said that the FBI has approached players about wearing a wire in an effort to get you on tape admitting steroid use. Mike Celizic, who reported the story for MSNBC, called the investigation a “witch hunt” and wrote:
“It’s not about cleaning up the game; it’s about putting Barry Bonds in jail.”
Another reporter quoted an FBI agent as saying:
“He’s our Capone.”
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and maybe you are recalling the steroid insinuations that are keeping you out of the Hall of Fame.
And maybe you remember that in December of 2004, after more than a year of investigation, San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams broke the story about a federal investigation of a nutritional supplement company called BALCO; they claimed that you and Jason Giambi had admitted to taking steroids.
Immediately the issue of steroids in baseball became front-page news and stayed there, thanks to that book those two reporters published: Game of Shadows you became the face of the scandal.
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and you have to believe that you are getting a bad rap for supposed steroids use. Don’t the writers and the fans know that you were convicted of “obstruction of justice”–on one count of giving an evasive answer to a 2003 grand jury investigating illegal steroids distribution?
You told the San Francisco Chronicle: “I went through the system. And that’s what it is..and that’s what I got…I’m in an appeal process right now.”
You said it plain as day: “I was never convicted of steroids.”
But the bar for conviction in the Kangaroo Kourt of Public Opinion and amongst the “jury” of the BWAA voters is well below legal standards; so, mere innuendo, gossip, smears, and rumors are allowed to substitute for “evidence” and you lose HOF votes for supposed lack of “integrity, sportsmanship, and character.”
You remember the infamous “Slugout in the Dugout” in June 2002 with your team mate, Second baseman Jeff Kent, and how your manager Dusty Baker, who had frequently changed your diapers, had to separate the two of you.
Back then, Kent epitomized the sentiment of suspicion that still casts a shadow on you today:
“Well I think all of us, as baseball players, even the fans, you watch a player evolve into something bigger and better and, as a player, you scratch your head and you go, ‘Wow, really? I mean can that really happen?’ So you don’t really know, but you have in your mind that something’s not right and Barry presented that cloud around himself and kind of got himself in trouble.”
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and you may erase the felony conviction as a reason for being denied the Hall of Fame on February 13, 2013, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments before a three-judge panel in San Francisco.
And maybe you wonder:
‘Don’t they get it? I was never convicted of steroids use, I was convicted in April 2011 of one felony obstruction count for giving an evasive, rambling reply during a 2003 grand jury appearance when the prosecutor asked me whether I received drugs that required a syringe.’
In August 2011 the jury deadlocked on three charges you made false statements, and prosecutors dropped those counts.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston sentenced you to 30 days of house arrest, two years of probation, 250 hours of community service in youth-related activities and a $4,000 fine. She delayed imposing the sentence pending the appeal.
Your lawyers argue that you answer was accurate and not meant to obstruct.
Major League Baseball confirmed that, from 2003, every one of your tests was clean. Yet the suspicions refuse to go away, particularly after the leaked grand jury testimony and documents discovered by the Chronicle in the BALCO investigation.
Then, the book, Game of Shadows, claimed that, jealous of the attention showered on McGwire’s season home run record in 1998, you began taking the steroid Winstrol after that season. The authors claim you took human growth hormone and Deca Durabolin after the 1999 season and, before your 73-home run season of 2001, the BALCO-created “clear” and “cream” drugs as well as Clomid, a women’s infertility drug, and Modafinil, a narcolepsy drug used as a stimulant.
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and, you think: ‘Hey, those claims were never presented to any court or jury in the American legal system.’ And you shout out loud: “I was never convicted of steroids!” But, does anyone in the BWAA, the media, or the public hear you?
So, maybe you expect that, if the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals San Francisco decides in your favor—that you are not guilty of obstruction, a felony in California—it will close the book on your legal problems and remove the steroids stain on your baseball career.
That would leave the BWAA just two excuses to deny your entering the Hall of Fame: your personality and racism.
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and you could wonder: If offending the delicate sensibilities of those paragons of character, the 569 BBWA members was the criteria, then…
How did the revered American icon, Joe DiMaggio, pass the “integrity/sportsmanship/character” test?
Wasn’t the “Yankee Clipper” suspected of having links to the Sicilian Mafia?
“DiMaggio’s biographer, Richard Ben Cramer detailed how “mobster Frank Costello had set up a ‘trust fund’ at the Bowery Bank (Madden, 2000)” for him.*
“Mobster Joe Adonis… regularly supplied DiMaggio with hookers in every American League city (Chafets*, 2009, pg. 65)” that he visited. The writers, of course, never made that public, for if any had, “you’d be finished-washed up with DiMag, probably non grata with the rest of the Yanks-and maybe with the mob too (Chafets, 2009, pg. 65).”
For a sport based on “high morals and character (Chafets*, 2009, pg. 62)” there seems to be many players in the Hall of Fame that did not live up to the Rule 5 Character Clause because of alcoholism.
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and maybe you answer the question: Should “Joltin’ Joe” have been denied his place in the Hall of Fame? Of course not; although there were innuendos and gossip, he was never found guilty in a court of law, or even charged.
“Innocent until proven guilty.”
You have studied the game and you know that:
“The Hall of Fame is filled with people who admitted [pre-2003]to using drugs Paul Molitor (Appendix A), Ferguson Jenkins (Appendix A), etc.), who willingly cheated (Gaylord Perry (Appendix A) threw spitballs, Don Sutton (Appendix A) and Whitey Ford (Appendix A) cut baseballs, players undoubtedly corked bats), who enthusiastically used illegal performance-enhancers (that would be anyone who ever popped an amphetamine to get a boost, and it’s likely that represents a high percentage of Hall of Famers.”) (Posnanski**, 2009).
You recall that the greatest hitter and student of the art, Ted Williams, openly demonstrated disdain for members of the BBWA, just like you.
And, although a poll of players showed that your were the player they would LEAST like as a team mate, ESPN Magazine interviewed 100 Major League Baseball players in March 2010 and asked:
Should Barry Bonds be in the Hall of Fame? The results were:
67% felt Bonds deserves enshrinement.
32% said Bonds does not deserve enshrinement.
[Ain, Clemmons, & Knight, 2010]
YOU’RE BARRY BONDS and, maybe you expect that:
IF you win your appeal and are no longer a felon in California…
IF the irrelevant BWAA “Jury of Pee-ers” compares your integrity, sportsmanship, and character to many already enshrined and deigns to award you their vacuous stamp of approval…
AND, if you are still denied entry into the Hall of Fame,
THEN you could conclude—“beyond a reasonable doubt”—that, indeed, it is, starkly: American racism; that same virulent plague of prejudice–that same old American Pie racism that engendered hate letters and death threats to Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron from haters in the underground Okeydoke Nation.
And History’s Hand will place the reeking “black ball’ of racism in the middle of every baseball diamond in America and ask us all: “Oh, say, can you see?”–while we sing the National Anthem in the “land of the free.”
*Cooperstown confidential heroes, rogues, and the inside story of the Baseball Hall of Fame, by Zev Chafets
ALSO SEE: Cheaters Guide to Baseball by Derek Zumsteg.
#1971 The Pittsburgh Pirates” href=”http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teams/pirates.shtml”>Pittsburgh Pirates field the first all-black starting lineup: Al Oliver 1b, Rennie Stennett 2b, Jackie Hernandez ss, Dave Cash 3b, Manny Sanguillen c, Dock Ellis p, Gene Clines lf, Roberto Clemente cf, and Willie Stargell rf.
1974 Hank Aaron surpasses Babe Ruth as the All-Time leader in career homeruns.
1975 Frank Robinson became the first African American full-time manager in MLB in 1975; in 1973 Ernie Banks managed a game after the Cubs “Whitey” Lockman was tossed out of a game; the Cubs won in 12 innings; you were 11 years-old.
1977 Bill Lucas of the Atlanta Braves” href=”http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teams/brav.shtml”>Atlanta Braves is the first black major league general manager.