How did the most hated man in all of sport become the happiest guy on the internet?
Barry Bonds has always been known for a kind of calculated obtuseness. In the ‘90s and early 2000s, when he came to prominence as the greatest hitter of his generation and arguably, all time, the media both in the Bay Area—and when they did deign—nationally, painted him as a sort of mischievous prima donna: The over-sized chair in the corner of the locker room. The coldness with teammates, most notably fellow MVP down the way Jeff Kent. And the unapologetic vengeance with which he tore pages out of baseball’s history books and set them ablaze.
Though the Godson of Willie Mays came home to San Francisco in 1993, after signing what was at the time the biggest free agent deal ($43.75 million), ostensibly to help resurrect a franchise that months earlier had its bags packed for St. Petersburg, Florida—the prodigal son never seemed to shake his surly image.
The left fielder retired as the home run king, both overall and individual-season (2001). He has seven MVP awards crowding his trophy case and 14 All Star appearances in 22 seasons. He ranks second all-time in baseball’s current It Statistic: Wins Above Replacement. Only the Bambino floats above him. Most notably, Bonds—who also left the game having garnered the most walks of all time—has a career on-base percentage of .444. This puts him in the same company as Gehrig, Ruth and Ted Williams.
He came six outs from of winning a World Series in 2002, and, with apologies to Charles Barkley, is the greatest living athlete never to hoist a trophy.
In 2007, Bonds was indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to the grand jury during a federal investigation of BALCO—Victor Conte’s performance enhancement incubator. That season, aged 43, Bonds hit .276, jacked 28 home runs and drove in 66—in only 340 at-bats. He also led the majors with 132 walks. At the height of his imbroglio with MLB, he was unsigned in the off-season. Bonds himself has hinted at collusion as he surely could have provided some flash from the batter’s box as a DH and extended his career 2-3 more seasons.
After retirement, Bonds quietly divorced his second wife, Liz Watson, in 2010. He is now an avid road biker and splits his time between LA and the Bay Area. The past two springs, the Giants have brought Bonds to Scottsdale as a special hitting instructor.
Perjury charges against Bonds were eventually dropped, but the obstruction of justice conviction was upheld by an appellate court in 2013. After a rehearing, a larger panel court voted 10-1 to overturn the conviction in March of this year.
Bonds’ life away from baseball and the Giants organization has been unobtrusive. In his absence, the franchise has fully divested itself from his final playing years and accompanying scandal by pocketing a trio of World Series rings—re-building the team around pitching and fielding to suit the ballpark whose 25-foot-high right field wall was originally designed for one Barry Lamar to hit towering drives into the bay beyond it.
It is here we pick up the narrative of Barry Bonds who has stumbled into a new role: online media provocateur and slick if not amiable everyman.
Below, a sampling of the strangely pleasant union between Bonds and the internet. Keep in mind, all this yummy goodness is from the last three weeks:
He bakes cookies
He gives shout-outs to fellow scandalized sluggers
— Barry L Bonds (@BarryBonds) August 19, 2015
…and emoji love to a sport that lets their best in the HOF
Congratulations to all the great athletes being enshrined into the @ProFootballHOF today! 🏈🏈🏈
— Barry L Bonds (@BarryBonds) August 8, 2015
He sports his WS (special assistant) ring with Giants’ CEO Larry Bear [sic]
— Barry L Bonds (@BarryBonds) July 29, 2015
Selfie groovin’ to EWF’s September, check
He kicks it on the Bay
Perfect day.😀😀 pic.twitter.com/rebUcRPjg2
— Barry L Bonds (@BarryBonds) August 4, 2015
He becomes a grandpa…on his birthday
My Granddaughter ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️🎀🎉 pic.twitter.com/Q8DLVoXSJw
— Barry L Bonds (@BarryBonds) July 28, 2015
He walks around the city talking shit to his mother and daughter
Oh, and he crushes it on his bike…before crushing some wine
Cycled to Buena Vista Winery! pic.twitter.com/gieXZ2wQlp
— Barry L Bonds (@BarryBonds) July 17, 2015
…For someone who for two decades was so maligned, misunderstood and misquoted—it seems like Barry Lamar is either trying to make up for lost time, has had a change of heart, or is curating one insanely affable image.
To me, it’s working. And I’ll be the first to say it: #iwannakickitwithbarry