A chance to make a statement in the Summer of Bonds Print
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Monday, 02 July 2007 23:36
MLB Headline News

 Willie Mays was patrolling center field for the Giants, while 100,000 drug-filled youths were playing games of a different sort on the streets of San Francisco. The year was 1967, and the Summer of Love was in full bloom.
The Giants were done for the season by the time it finally ended in October when locals held a mock funeral - ``The Death of Hippie.''
If you remember it, the saying goes, you weren't there.
Forty years later, the hippies own luxury condos and drive BMWs. There's a new ballpark on the bay with a statue of Mays out front where they can bring their grandkids to pay homage to one of the greatest players ever.
Instead of the Summer of Love, we've got the Summer of Bonds.
It began, actually, in the spring when baseball fans started facing up to the prospect that the inevitable would happen and Barry Bonds would break one of the most hallowed records in the game sometime this season.
Historians, though, may mark the date as the first day of July when Bonds managed to come from way behind to win a spot in the All-Star game in San Francisco with a late surge at the polls.
This alone will puzzle those who look back because everything they will have read on the subject would indicate that Bonds was not only a pariah among most baseball fans, but perhaps the most hated athlete of his time.
Somehow, Bonds managed to secure 2,325,391 votes for a spot in the National League outfield, meaning either Giants' fans stuffed the ballot box during a homestand that ended over the weekend or there was a sentimental groundswell everywhere to get him in the starting lineup.
I'm going with the stuffing the ballot box theory, since Bonds takes pride in going out of his way to make it hard to feel anything warm and fuzzy about anything he does. He could find a cure for cancer tomorrow and still not change many minds among the 52 percent of fans who said in a recent poll they were rooting against him to break Henry Aaron's record.
It's interesting to note that Bonds didn't finish in the top five in the balloting for outfielders among his own colleagues. Most players toe the company line and say they support Bonds because he has never been convicted of doing anything wrong, but apparently they're not so accommodating when it comes for voting for him.
Bonds has decent numbers this season and surely would have gotten in anyway, so it doesn't much matter. Manager Tony La Russa, who never saw Mark McGwire do anything wrong either, would have picked him and the Giants did need at least one player on the roster.
So now the first official event in the Summer of Bonds will be an All-Star game in the only ballpark in the National League where he will not be booed when he is introduced as the starting left fielder. Home fans are always a forgiving lot, even though the hometown newspaper reported that Bonds admitted to a grand jury that he unwittingly used steroids just before he began hitting home runs in massive amounts.
``This is my town. This is my house,'' Bonds said. ``You can't say enough about being at home.''
Actually, it's not Bonds' house. He's just occupying space until the Giants finally decide at year's end that they've had enough of him, which seems increasingly likely.
And it's certainly not his statue outside the front gate. It never will be.
That belongs to his godfather, who will be honored in a pre-game ceremony. Mays, who is now 76, hit 660 home runs, all but 14 of them for the Giants.
Imagine what the Say Hey Kid could have done had there been the kind of pharmaceutical advantages the latest generation of home run hitters had available to them. Heck, just imagine how many more he could have hit if they would have let him wear heavy padding on his arms so he could bat like Bonds does without fear of anyone pitching him inside.
Hopefully, Mays will get his proper due and not be totally overshadowed in the Summer of Bonds. Hopefully, commissioner Bud Selig will resist the temptation to succumb to television demands and invite Bonds to participate in the home run derby the day before the game.
Selig, of course, will be in San Francisco to preside over the All-Star festivities. If he was serious about putting an end to the steroid era, he could make use of the occasion by announcing once and for all that he won't be on hand to dignify the moment when Bonds continues his summer by hitting No. 756.
Better yet, he could use the time to meet privately with Bonds and do just what he did to Jason Giambi - tell him to come clean to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and his gang of steroid investigators or face an immediate 50-game suspension from baseball.
Selig could make this an All-Star game to remember for all the right reasons, though no one expects that to happen.
Because, like it or not, this is the Summer of Bonds.
----
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org
 

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