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'Barry Bonds, Baseball’s Superman' by Steven Travers

Baseball, from Babe to Bonds

Sunday, May 05, 2002

By Jon Caroulis


Barry Bonds, Baseball’s Superman

By Steven Travers

Sports Publishing


Who is Barry Bonds? Is he the arrogant player who skips the team picture shoot two years in a row, or the loving father who does anonymous charity work for kids? He’s both.

“The Conundrum” is how Steven Travers describes the ballplayer in this biography, which argues that the former Pirate might be the greatest baseball player ever.

He also acknowledges that Bonds can be as kind and loyal as he is brusque and arrogant (and frequently at the same time).

After the season he had last year (and what he’s done so far), it isn’t a far-fetched notion that he could retire as the all-time home-run champion and at the top in on-base percentage, walks and runs scored.

“Some days, he is a great guy and a credit to his team. Other days he is mean. He does not always hustle. The universe revolves around him,” writes Travers, a columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.

He balances his biography with Bonds’ pursuit and eventual capture of the single-season record for home runs. Travers’ work is a remarkably frank assessment of Bonds’ character, his background, his flaws and virtues. But, because he needed to get the book published for this season, there might not have been enough time for him to dig deep into his subject’s character.

There also are some interesting, frank accounts of the media, race and sports and the vast sums of money made by professional athletes. A former minor-league pitcher, Travers occasionally runs amok on these topics, but they’re important in the discussion of why or why not Bonds is the most admired or most detested man in baseball -- and it’s possible he’s both.

“It is easy to look at the popularity of African-Americans like Tony Gwynn [and] Michael Jordan, and conclude that racism is not a factor. ... What is not on the surface, however, is that most whites love to like ‘certain kinds’ of blacks. Barry Bonds is not the kind of black athlete that they love to like.”

Pirates fans will feel there is not enough of Bonds’ years in Pittsburgh; the chapter about his time with the Bucs is titled “He was probably somebody that everybody in the clubhouse wanted to beat up.” (The remark is attributed to Sid Bream.)

While Bonds inherited the baseball genes from his gifted father, Bobby, his attitudes and makeup were influenced more by his godfather, Willie Mays, who seems to be the only person who can call Bonds on the carpet and not only get away with it but also have an effect on Bonds when he pulls his prima-donna act.

Travers concludes that when Bonds is finished, he will be accepted and acknowledged as baseball’s greatest player ever. Of course he does. No one would write a book suggesting that its subject will be the second- or third- greatest player ever.

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