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Awaiting the Return of Barry Bonds

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Awaiting the Return of Barry Bonds

Awaiting the Return of Barry Bonds

Awaiting the Return of Barry Bonds

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Commentator Frank Deford talks about San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, who had three knee surgeries early this year and has yet to play this baseball season. Deford wonders why Bonds hasn't returned to the game in order to pursue the career home run record set by Henry Aaron.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And the San Francisco Giants hope their star slugger will return to the lineup this summer. Barry Bonds is recovering from three knee surgeries since January, and he hasn't played all season. Commentator Frank Deford has been thinking about Bonds from a perch in the Giants' hometown.

FRANK DEFORD:

So I'm sitting in a bar in San Francisco the other day and the waiter tells the bartender the diner has ordered a Journalist. To my surprise, a Journalist is, it seems, a popular drink in some environs. It is made up of gin, both sweet and dry vermouth, Cointreau, lemon juice with a touch of bitters. My first thought is, `What a terrible thing to do to good gin.' My second is to ask the bartender if there is any drink named Sports Journalist. `No,' he says. So I have made it up: Cheap scotch and Gatorade, Slivovitz for hard-noseness, sherry for sentimentality and a dash of steak sauce.

But now, whatever your choice of beverage, will you please join me in a toast to Barry Bonds and his early return to the diamond. Do you, as I, fail to hear much the tinkling of ice from glasses raised on high? Has there, in fact, ever been so great player so universally unbeloved as the esteemed Mr. Bonds? Myself, whatever grace I had granted him, was lost this spring when he brought his young son to sit alongside while he loosed a tirade against the press, blaming sports journalists for all his troubles. You can do that to us, Mr. Bonds. You can't do that to a child.

And now we await his return, perhaps, possibly, maybe, from some mysteriously lingering ailment, then to begin his final assault on one of the dearest records in baseball, the 755 home runs hit by Henry Aaron. It should be that we would be waiting anxiously for his return following the grand quest with anticipation and admiration, but as Bonds moves surreptitiously about, popping up occasionally, always lugging the word `alleged' with him, much as Linus dragged his blanket on the ground, there seems to be less and less enthusiasm for his return to the bosom of baseball.

In San Francisco, there appears to be, at best, ambivalence about Bonds. Everybody seems to have a story that illustrates his boorishness, and everybody wonders, `Did he take steroids? Did he lie to the grand jury? Do we want any more precious records to be cloaked in suspicion?' But then Bonds' team is doing so atrociously without him that even in cosmopolitan San Francisco there is visible there, as with fans everywhere, the triumph of expedience over righteousness. As one virtuous citizen explained to me, `We all know that everyone else thinks Bonds is a complete jerk, but, you see, he is our complete jerk.' Ah, yes, I guess in San Francisco it's any storm in a port.

To be sure, in the land of the national pastime, there is this legal nicety that a man is innocent till proven guilty, and so he is in the court of law. In the court of public opinion, though, Bonds has already been adjudged, a superb player when he was in his first natural body, a magnificent one in his second dubious body and a, well--well, a complete jerk in his humanity. Few enough would be cheering for Bonds to eclipse the noble Mr. Aaron, even if the fog of steroids didn't hang around his big head. Records are made to be broken, but, oh, my couldn't we have record breakers made more to our own taste?

MONTAGNE: The comments of Frank Deford. His newest book is "The Old Ball Game" about baseball and America at the start of the 20th century. He joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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