BARRY BONDS helped lead the Pirates to three straight NL East titles from 1990-92. (AP Photo/File)
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Barry Bonds stands as baseball’s all-time home run king, with 762 bombs over a career that lasted more than two decades.
With his fearsome and sweet lefty swing, Bonds also set the single-season home record with 73 in 2001, a year in which he also drew 177 walks.
What separated Bonds from sluggers like Babe Ruth and others? He probably had the best hand-eye coordination ever.
So feared was Bonds; pitchers intentionally walked him with the bases loaded.
A league MVP seven times and a gold glove winner eight times, there’s little question that Barry Lamar Bonds ranks among the top five players in baseball history.
Some recognize him ahead of Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and others as the greatest.
But Barry Bonds will not receive the crown jewel of his sport – entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
At least not yet.
Fifteen years after leaving the sport and being snubbed each year, Bonds no longer will have eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association of America’s (BBWAA) ballot.
It’s the writers who vote to enshrine players, who must receive 75 percent of the vote for election.
In December 2022, baseball’s “Today’s Game Committee” will consider Bonds’ candidacy. That committee consists of 16 members from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, executives, and veteran media members.
The group forms an electorate that considers players no longer eligible for election by the BBWAA.
Many have lumped Bonds in with others in the shameful Steroid era, where writers have repeatedly snubbed players like Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire.
Unlike Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Jose Canseco, who have either been caught or admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, Bonds had always denied usage.
Also, he’d never been disciplined for illegal drug use.
However, baseball writers and others point to the year after Bonds’ playing days ended when a federal indictment charged him with perjury obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to a grand jury during the federal government’s investigation of BALCO, a steroid and performance-enhancing drug laboratory in San Francisco.
Leaked testimony revealed he admitted to unknowingly using “the cream” and “the clear,” and a former girlfriend testified that he used steroids for an injury.
But Bonds’ snub appears to run deeper and it cuts with a hint of jealousy and racism.
When Bonds set the all-time home run record, then-Commissioner Bud Selig went out of his way to demean the accomplishment citing alleged but unproven steroid use.
However, a few years earlier, Selig and others cheered McGwire and Sosa’s steroid-fueled assault on the same record.
Baseball writers – the individuals’ tasked with casting Hall of Fame votes – jeered Bonds at every turn. With typical dog whistles, they often described Bonds as “surly,” “aloof,” and having “a bad attitude.”
Bonds mostly ignored the media and its rhetoric, and during 22 years in two of the most challenging parks for hitters – Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium and San Francisco’s Candlestick Park – he excelled.
That he refused to engage media members only served to anger them, and the dog whistles continued at a relentless pace.
Bonds once explained that the pressure he experienced as a young man on the Pittsburgh Pirates led to his combativeness with the media.
He recognized that he could have done more to better the relationship.
“I’ve created this fire around me, and I’m stuck in it, so I might as well live with the flames,” he stated during a 2016 interview.
Still, with just about a half dozen Black members in the more than 700 member BBWAA, Bonds stands little chance of understanding or recognition for his peerless accomplishments.
“The simple truth is that Barry Bonds is the story of the steroid era. He is a player whose physical gifts knew no limits – and whose desire for something beyond greatness took him to a place he never needed to go,” ESPN Journalist Jeff Passan wrote in favor of Bonds’ election to the Hall of Fame.
“His greed mirrored the league’s: the ceaseless pursuit of bigger, better, more. This is the history that demands to be told, and there is no better place to tell it than in the plaque room at the Hall of Fame.”
Barry Bonds’ Career Statistics: 2,986 games played; 2,227 runs scored; 2,935 hits; 601 doubles; 77 triples; 762 home runs; 514 stolen bases; 2,558 walks; 688 intentional walks; .298 batting average; .444 on base percentage; .607 slugging percentage; 1.051 OPS.