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An interview with Barry Bonds. Or was it?

CHICAGO - Barry Bonds was playful. This was before home run No. 752 cut through a stiff wind and headed toward a ball hawker's hand on Sheffield Avenue on Thursday. It was before No. 753 screamed into the basket in center field. It was before Bon...

CHICAGO - Barry Bonds was playful.

This was before home run No. 752 cut through a stiff wind and headed toward a ball hawker's hand on Sheffield Avenue on Thursday. It was before No. 753 screamed into the basket in center field. It was before Bonds would turn the boos at Wrigley Field into a deep grumble that contained anger, frustration and more than a touch of guilty pleasure.

Bonds sat at his stall in the Giants' clubhouse, talking only occasionally with the attendants who work in the cramped quarters.

But he was about as alone as a soon-to-be record-holder can be. He soon would be in the lineup for the first time in a four-game series against the Cubs.

He was in the middle of a slump, and he looked like a museum piece sitting there. I thought the poor guy could use some company.

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It was an odd interview, questions answered with questions, questions challenged, questions avoided and questions answered thoughtfully. And some good news came out of it. Barry Bonds doesn't dislike me, but he is disappointed in me. And he said if I were to get hurt, he would feel bad for me. So we're good.

I rattled around inside his head awhile Thursday, but somehow I'm the one who came away with a headache.

The interview:

What are the odds now that you're going to do it at home?

"Do what?"

Break Hank Aaron's home-run record.

"I haven't thought about that. I just want to get a hit."

People say you're timing it so you can break the record in San Francisco.

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"What people?"

Media. Fans.

"I don't think the fans say anything. It only comes on television. In fact, I've never seen a fan on TV say what he thinks is going to happen. Have you?"

No. Does it bother you . . .

"I don't have an opinion about it."

Do you want to do it at home?

"Do I? I don't really have an opinion about that either. I just want a hit."

What do you have an opinion on?

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"Nothing. Just go out there and play some baseball."

Will you be happy when this whole thing is over?

"Will I? I'm happy now."

I know you're unhappy about not getting a hit in your last 21 at-bats. That was obvious when you knocked over a laundry basket recently.

"I'm over it. That day's gone."

What brings you happiness these days?

"What brings me happiness? That's too personal of a question."

You're content.

"I'm happy. You said I'm content."

Isn't that the same thing? Can you be happy and not content?

"You could be, but I didn't say that. I said I'm happy."

Why are you happy?

"Because I have a lot to be happy about."

But that's too personal to talk about, right? You're tough.

"I'm just having fun with you."

Did you want to face Carlos Zambrano (last week)?

"Don't care who pitches."

A few years ago, he caught a line shot of yours, then pumped his fist in celebration. You said he would learn respect someday.

"Is this a controversial conversation that you're trying to have about Zambrano and me? It won't work. I'm just letting you know."

I'm not trying to do that. Do you think he has learned anything?

"I don't have to teach Zambrano anything on pitching."

I like how he gets excited out there.

"I do too."

Maybe it's not a baseball thing to get excited.

"I think it is a baseball thing. If you're excited about something, you should be excited. If you're happy about doing something, you should be happy."

Don't you think there are people in baseball who don't like that, who are oldschool?

"Other people ain't paying his bills. Doesn't matter what they think. If they don't like it, tough."

But isn't that the culture of baseball - don't show anybody up?

"What are you showing up if you're happy about something?"

I agree with you. I'm just saying that might not be the common perception in baseball. Historically . . .

"There is no history. If that's the case, you say history about a lot of things. Schools have changed. You want to go back old-school, you can take old-school wherever you want it."

It doesn't mean oldschool doesn't exist.

"Yeah, it exists, but that time is gone. It's a new time and a new generation."

Do you like where the game's going?

"I like these young players. They're good players."

Do you like that they show their emotions?

"They have their own style, whatever that style is. I'm not going to judge you on that style. It's your style. So what? I respect it. He's a man. He ain't no child. As a hitter, if you don't want him to pump his fist, there's a (home-run) fence that goes all the way around. That will stop that real quick if you choose - or if you're capable of it."

What's your approach at the plate?

"I am too old for my approach."

What does that mean?

"It means I don't analyze my approach after 22 years."

But has it changed?

"Has my approach changed? No."

Whose opinion do you respect?

"In what capacity? There are a lot of people in this world I respect. I think it's too broad a question."

Whose opinion do you respect about your accomplishments?

"Still think it's too broad a question."

About your home runs.

"Still too broad."

OK, June 5, 1992. Did you hit a home run that day? I don't know how to narrow it down.

"You can't."

Do you respect people's opinion in the media?

"Do I respect them? I respect their jobs. Why wouldn't I? I have no reason not to."

It's one thing to respect their jobs, but what about the people criticizing you?

"Can you give me a specific name? Or do you want to just make it a third-party conversation?"

I've been critical of you. I'll start with me.

"I've never read your stuff so I can't really answer that question. If I had read it and you were wrong about something, I'd tell you. I'm not the type of person who judges another person unless I get to know them."

If I told you that I questioned what you did because of the steroid allegations, would that bother you?

"It would be third-party assumptions, so you're no different than anybody else. I don't have much respect for your opinion. Now do I dislike you for it? I don't have any reason to dislike you. You've never done anything to me personally. There's a difference between disliking a person for something they did to you and disappointed in what their opinions are.

"If you went out of your way to personally offend me, sure I would dislike you. But if you're jumping on a bandwagon with a whole bunch of other people, you have a life to live too. We can talk about the truth if you want or we can beat around the bush all you want, but don't you have a life to live? You've got a family, a job to do? You're just doing your job."

Nothing bothers you.

"I can't control what you want to say. If you want to have that opinion about (steroids), do you really, truly believe it? Or are you doing it for a story? Or are you doing it for your family? Or are you doing it for the motive? What are you doing it for? What's your true motive?"

The truth.

"There is no truth to it. So what's your true motive?"

The pursuit of the truth then. What I think is the truth.

"It's what you think. It's your opinion. There's no truth to what you're saying."

You're not fazed by much anymore.

"I was born in this game. I seen it early."

But not much seems to bother you.

"A lot of things bother me. You guys just don't."

Give me one example of something that bothers you.

"That's too personal."

Everything about you is personal.

"We have no relationship. There's nothing between you and me. Why should you bother me? But it would hurt me if you got hurt or injured."

But you've seen it over the years where players are bothered by what is written about them.

"You have no idea what I've seen. This is the first time you and I have ever talked one-on-one ever. So you don't know what I've seen. You're now in a third-party conversation again."

But haven't we all seen players get upset?

"Yeah, some people get upset."

You think I'm a lawyer or something, that I'm pushing you.

"I didn't say you were. You're just not accepting my answers."

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