|Bonds plans to enjoy what may be last visit to Pittsburgh as a player|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 13 April 2007 15:09|
Barry Bonds with a smile? That's a sight Pittsburgh Pirates fans haven't seen for years.
Bonds' parting from the Pirates in 1992 was less than amicable when the franchise broke up a three-time division championship team for financial reasons, but he said Friday he still has many good memories of the city. And, too, of the fans who booed him loudly with every at-bat Friday night.
``(Former Pirates manager) Jim Leyland always made it fun for us,'' Bonds recalled during an extended interview with mostly Pittsburgh media members. ``No rules, no nothing, just go out and play.''
Bonds still remembers Leyland as the best manager he played for, even though the two had a memorable, expletive-filled shouting match during spring training in 1991.
``He really stuck up for us,'' Bonds said. ``The locker room was ours. He never allowed anyone to dictate to us. We had basketball tournaments. We did some fun stuff.''
If Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's career record of 755 homers, the 42-year-old may retire after this season and might not play in Pittsburgh again, even though 3,000 career hits also remains a goal. After going 3-for-3 with two homers and a single in only four innings of play Friday night, Bonds needs 19 homers to break Aaron's record and 151 hits for 3,000.
``I don't think I need 3,000 hits'' to make the Hall of Fame, Bonds said. ``I just want 3,000 hits because Willie (Mays) says it's a good number.''
Despite being a two-time MVP with the Pirates, and nearly winning a third MVP award, some Pirates fans became disillusioned with Bonds' frequent playoff failures and his sometimes surly attitude. But the Pirates haven't had a winning season since he left as a free agent, carrying a 14-season losing streak into this year.
Perhaps there's a Barry Bonds curse on the Pirates, much like the supposed Babe Ruth curse upon the Red Sox after they sold baseball's first slugging star to the Yankees?
``No, I don't believe that at all,'' Bonds said. ``They've had some good players over there that can do some things, they just never keep the players. That's been the downfall of Pittsburgh. At a certain point, players move on, and you need to hang on to them a little longer.
``We all wanted to stay with the Pirates,'' he said, referring to former teammates such as Bobby Bonilla, Doug Drabek and John Smiley. ``But there was just no chance of us staying. Back then, there was no real front person in the organization. It was banks and corporations who owned the team.''
Bonds congratulated himself Friday for doing something he said he's never done before - stay friendly with the media for six weeks of spring training and the first two weeks of the season.
While he often was quotable and accessible during his early years with the Pirates, his relationship with the media has been more cantankerous with the Giants.
These days, Bonds tapes all interviews, then posts them on his Web site so fans can understand the context in which the questions were asked.
``I've decided to enjoy myself and see what I can do,'' Bonds said. ``I'm going to have fun, make fun of myself, enjoy y'all (the media) for as long as I can. I've been doing pretty good so far this year. Hey, I've never lasted that long before. I'm too old to fight with you guys anymore. I'm tired. I'm going to make myself happy, whether you guys want me to be or not.''
Bonds finds it fitting that he will wear Jackie Robinson's No. 42 on Sunday, to honor of the majors' first black player, in the city where he broke into the majors. He calls the 60th anniversary of Robinson's debut a milestone not just for black players, but all major leaguers.
``What does it mean to all African American players? I don't think only African American athletes should be answering the question,'' Bonds said. ``Some of the white ballplayers should be answering as well. We already knows what it means to us. We've answered that question 1,000 times over. The question is what has it done for the game of baseball?
``Baseball is the American pastime. We have more Asian players, more Hispanic players, more Canadian players, more European players. Baseball is for everyone, and Jackie Robinson was at the forefront of all the changes.''