Friday, April 29, 2005

Barry, Barry, Quite Contrary

It's been ten years. Has Pittsburgh gotten over it?

The "it" to which I refer is the acrimonious departure of superstar outfielder Barry Bonds from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1993. Since then, Pittsburgh baseball fans have suffered through of a love-hate relationship with him. Many of us remember Bonds as a promising second-generation player with the potential to become an even better player than his father, Bobby Bonds, who spent several productive seasons with the San Francisco Giants before spending all or parts of his last seven seasons with seven different teams. As young Barry struggled to find his niche on a Pirates team that initially looked to him as a speedy leadoff hitter who could play center field, he began to develop into the power hitter with the high batting average who is dead on course to become the leading home run hitter of all time.

Back in 1993, we couldn't see that coming. Barry was just another spoiled, overpayed ballplayer who nevertheless had improved to the point where he could carry the club to three consecutive first place finishes, but always managed to choke once October set in. Barry Bonds deserved the fans' respect for everything that he did on the field, but frequent reports of clashes with teammates and with manager Jim Leyland contributed to an image of him as a man with bad attitude. There were a number of reasons for him to leave Pittsburgh -- better money in San Francisco, a chance to follow in his father's footsteps, and it was time for him to leave his detractors behind and prove that he could live up to his potential. Like so many before him (see esp. Dave Parker), Bonds showed that abandoning the Pirates was the best career move he could make.

In light of this history, the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at Bonds's current relationship with fans of his former team. Much of what took place in the early 1990s, both on the field and off, is now water under the bridge. Barry Bonds can bring people out to the ballpark on his own merits as a player, even in Pittsburgh, though there are still those who show up simply in order to register their displeasure. Please, people, let it go. The injured Bonds will miss a series in Pittsburgh this week, only the second time he has had to sit out a visit here since becoming a Giant. As his career is winding down, Pirate fans need to chill out and realize that they are running out of opportunities to appreciate his talents. There is no need to boo the man anymore just because he is Barry Bonds.

The SF Chronicle spoke to one Pirate fan to gauge the current "man in the street" feelings towards Bonds:

"I think most certainly there is going to be disappointment he's not here," said Jason Brooks, a 29-year-old law student, who also works in a Pittsburgh sports memorabilia store. Bonds' annual visits, Brooks said, "were one of the few events in the baseball season that people in Pittsburgh have had a chance to look forward to the last 12 years."

That was true, he said, even if the majority of Pittsburghers today dislike Bonds.

"To be a Bonds fan in Pittsburgh," he said, "is like calling yourself a Republican or a Bush supporter in San Francisco."

Gee, and here I thought I would be able to get through this post without anyone mentioning politics. Of some people it is said that they vote for the man and not the party. In the case of Barry Bonds and San Francisco, I suppose I would cheer for the man and boo the city.

1 comment:

Honnistaibe said...

The sad thing about Barry this year as that normally a Doctor would prescribe some form of steroid to help him recover from his knee problem..but now he can't even do that legally thanks to the other fuss he got himself entangled in.
Barry does deserve to be honored both in Pgh and elsewhere for his body of work. He simply is the best player to ever don a Pirate uniform and he was a saint compared to the asshole Ty Cobb was.