Major League Baseball and San Francisco Giants legend Barry Bonds did something totally unexpected at his jersey retirement ceremony over the weekend: He acted like a human being. Specifically, the famously recalcitrant and performance-enhanced slugger, not the 54-year-old father of three, chose to speak about his father rather than his ludicrous 762 career home runs. With his godfather, baseball demigod Willie Mays, in the audience, Barry talked about how desperately he wanted to impress his father, Bobby Bonds, an All-Star in his own right. As Barry talked about Bobby, he choked up.
Like his son, Bobby Bonds played for the Giants. Over the course of his career, he notched 332 run and became a fan favorite. Bobby, who coached his son to a level of greatness that far eclipses his own, passed away in 2003. Barry told the crowd at AT&T Park that he missed his father and wished he could have been there. But he also got into details about their relationship, some of which were slightly sad.
“I always questioned why he was sympathetic to others, while I was out there working my butt off,” Barry said. “Every time I’d say something like, ‘Hey, Dad, I hit two home runs today.’ He would say, ‘Good. Hit two more tomorrow.’”
Bobby was notoriously hard on Barry, and it was something his son didn’t always understand but has come to appreciate.
Barry noted that he once asked his father: “Why, Daddy? Why were you so hard on me?” and Bobby responded by saying “Because I love you so much, and I was so proud of you. I knew that as long as you were going to chase my approval, nothing was going to stop you from being the best you could be.”
After the ceremony, Barry told reporters that “there’s no question.” that it’s his father who was responsible for his drive to become one of the best players of all time. And it’s hard to deny that Bonds was among the best. He may well have been the best hitter who ever lived.
Willie Mays, long a big part of Bonds’s life and one of the few men able to claim a similar level of achievement, stood in as a guardian figure and gave an impromptu speech, telling the crowd that Bonds deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. The crowd seemed to agree. Bobby Bonds presumably would have agreed as well.