Bonds gets some love, but even Giants fans seem to be tiring of this act
SAN FRANCISCO -- By now, it's apparent no one really knows quite how to deal with Barry Bonds. Even on a night when history was there to be made, there seemed to be a sense of unease about the whole thing.
Thanks to Juan Pierre, everyone has another day to think about it.
The skinny center fielder for the Chicago Cubs spoiled what little party Major League Baseball was planning to give Bonds for tying Babe Ruth's mark of 714 home runs. Pierre's catch postponed the inevitable.
Maybe that will give baseball some time to blow up a few balloons or buy some fireworks for when it really does happen. Or better yet, buy a first-class plane ticket for Bud Selig to come and watch the festivities.
While baseball is at it, maybe it can figure out what is in the ubiquitous garlic fries they sell at Pacific Bell-SBC-AT&T park that make fans continue to embrace a suspect slugger who has never even tried to return their love.
They were eating them by the boxful Tuesday night, stopping only to stand and cheer when Bonds came to the plate. But there seemed something almost perfunctory about the cheers, as if the believers didn't really believe.
On the road, fans chanted "Balco Barry" and taunted Bonds by calling him a pumpkin head. They put some effort into every chant, and put even more into every boo.
Aside from one lame "Barry" chant early in the game that quickly petered out, Giants fans seemed more eager to be a part of history than they were to bond with Bonds.
Maybe they had heard Bonds hint he might be playing for an American League team next year if the Giants were not willing to offer him a contract. Perhaps they heard owner Peter Magowan infer that the Giants would still have a team next year -- even without Bonds.
It could be that they are finally coming to grips with reality -- that the evidence in the book "Game of Shadows" is just too strong to ignore that Bonds pumped an assortment of drugs into his body so he could hit more home runs.
Whatever, the love affair with Bonds that helped lure 3 million a year to the park by the bay seems to be cooling. By the end of the year, it may even be over, as Bonds goes off to pursue Henry Aaron's record as a Yankee or a member of some other team.
On this night, the Giants couldn't even sell out their corporate sellout of a ballpark, even on a beautiful night with the Cubs and their fanatical followers in town. The outfield bleachers were full and there were plenty of kayakers in McCovey Cove -- all in search of an historic ball -- but there also were chunks of empty seats in the upper decks.
The 39,357 who did come to the ballpark nearly witnessed the moment they came to see. Among them were Bonds' godfather, Willie Mays, and Willie McCovey, the only former baseball player with a cove named after him.
They stood and clapped when Bonds came up, and every time he swung the bat they let out a small collective gasp. And when he hit a 3-2 pitch with two on in the fifth inning on a rope toward center field it seemed they had picked the right night to see a slice of history in the making.
Enter Pierre, though. He went up the 8-foot center field wall just to the right of the 399-foot sign and took what would have been No. 714 off the top of the wall into his glove.
Bonds was ready to go into his home run trot when he saw Pierre had snared the ball. Instead, he gave him a dismissive wave, which Pierre responded to with a shrug of his shoulders.
"I know I ruined about 40,000 people's night tonight," Pierre said.
He may have spoiled a night, but not much of a celebration. MLB doesn't want to hold a party for Bonds at the same time it is investigating him for using steroids; the Giants don't even plan to stop the game for No. 714 unless the fans demand otherwise.
They may do just that, but these fans have to be as conflicted about Bonds as baseball is. They may love the home runs he's hit for the team, but there's no evidence they love the man he has been exposed to be.
Bonds said in Philadelphia that he doesn't listen to the boos and jeers on the road. He'll worry, he says, when the fans in San Francisco start to boo him.
That, of course, isn't likely to happen.
But there may not be as many cheering as there once were.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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