In last week’s Flashback Friday Moment, I covered A League of Their Own after the release of the 2022 class of inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The notable omission from baseball immortality is one of the game’s best all-around players if not the very best overall. And he happens to be the same skin color as me. That brings me to this week’s Black History subject in the Flashback Friday series: Barry Bonds.
How I first came across this Black History subject? My first exposure to Barry Bonds—at least in terms of realizing the caliber of player he represented—was during a Braves-Giants game I saw on the TBS SuperStation on April 15, 1993. I remember him taking Greg Maddux deep in the bottom of the 1st. He finished that night 3 for 4 with a homer, a double, and 5 RBI. I also saw him later that summer as one of the batters Thomas Ian Nicholas’s Henry Rowengartner struck out in Rookie of the Year.
What it meant to me then? That 1993 season was definitely the one that put him on my map. He hit .336 with 46 HR and 123 RBI. He had 29 steals and won a Gold Glove for good measure. As much as I liked Ken Griffey, Jr.’s sweet swing and charisma, I liked the intense focus Bonds had in every area of the game…at the plate, in the field, on the basepaths. Though he played for the rival Giants, he easily became my favorite player in the league. He was one of the reasons why I started batting from the left-hand side in the sandlot even though I’m right-handed. The latter part of his career saw him dominate my Dodgers on his way to the single-season and career records for home runs. I remember watching the ESPN Baseball Tonight coverage of him taking Chan Ho Park deep for #71 to dispatch Mark McGwire’s feat of 70 homers in a season. I was in my Tokyo apartment when he smashed #756 off Mike Bacsik to pass Hank Aaron. I remember writing that it was a great moment for the game of baseball. It was a great time for me as a fan even though he was the enemy.
What it means to me now? The actions by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in keeping Barry Bonds out of the Hall of Fame is a shame. Those grumpy, old men should be ashamed of themselves. He absolutely deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown…and until such a day happens, I won’t be making the trip to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. For the past 10 years or so, his Baseball-Reference page has been one of my favorite websites. I take looks at it and marvel at the majesty of the numbers. When I play Road to the Show in the MLB: The Show series, I try to create my player with attributes similar to those of Barry Bonds. He’ll forever be a legend in my book…with or without the Hall actually acknowledging it. He’s the greatest baseball player I’ve ever seen with my eyes…and he may be the best in the long history of the national pastime. One thing is for certain: he is Black excellence.