Not much I can do about this. The stars in baseball heaven have aligned with Mars, and with Saturn, while a blue moon hovers off the starboard side of Mercury. In other words, Barry Bonds may hit home runs 755 or 756 or both in San Diego. The Giants are in town Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Here's the deal: I have to write a Bonds column, but my aim is to write about Bonds using infomeat you've never read before. And steroid-free. Fair enough?
We'll begin in Hawaii 21 years ago. Not a bad time and place. I'd just bought an acre of land, sight unseen, in a lava field and was driving around Hilo in a red, $300 Mustang wondering how I was going to offload that odious patch of cement. Five islands to the north, Barry Bonds was playing outfield for the Hawaii Islanders, a AAA minor-league baseball team in the Pacific Coast League.
Barry Bonds played 44 games for the Islanders in 1986, batted .311 with seven home runs. The Islanders loved him. And to prove it, here's teammate and 1986 Islanders pitcher Ed Farmer, as quoted in Carrie Muskat's biography, Barry Bonds: "Barry was a young guy trying to get to the big leagues. The difference was, you knew this guy was going to make it. He had talent."
Islanders manager Tommy Sandt bespoke his admiration in the same text: "It was, like, 'Wow, this is a big league player.' Put him in the lineup every day, that's all I had to do."
You could say it's always been Barry and Hawaii. Two years earlier, Bonds was in the Aloha State playing for the Arizona State University Sun Devils.
And just like the Islanders, ASU teammates loved Barry too. Here's ASU teammate Mike Devereaux as quoted in Muskat's book: "Barry did things that were amazing. He would hit a ball with topspin over the fence that would be incredible."
ASU 1984 baseball coach Jim Brock told the Arizona Republic, "Barry Bonds is clearly the most talented athlete I have had the pleasure to coach." And the Phoenix Gazette quoted Brock as saying, "I always found him likable and totally sincere. A lot of kids with a famous dad or uncle are uncoachable, but not Barry. He may have missed a curfew or two, but I never questioned his sincerity."
In March of 1984, the Sun Devils flew into Honolulu for a four-game series against the University of Hawaii. The following story is taken from
Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero, by Jeff Pearlman.
By the way, you should know that the Sun Devils were rated number one in the nation for most of 1984. In Honolulu, Coach Brock laid down an 11:00 p.m. curfew and put his three co-captains (outfielder Oddibe McDowell, shortstop Romy Cucjen, and pitcher Kendall Carter) in charge.
Four players broke curfew, including Barry Bonds. "At the stadium the following afternoon, (co-captain) McDowell gathered the four night crawlers together. 'We're trying to win a national championship, and you guys are just killing us,' he said. 'So when we get back to Tempe, y'all are gonna have some serious punishment running to do.' Three of the four nodded in agreement. Barry did not. He looked McDowell in the eyes and said, 'Who do you think you are? You're not the coach here. Jim Brock is. You can't make me f---- run.'
"Upon returning to Tempe, Brock suspended Barry and held a team meeting without Bonds. 'It's been brought to my attention that a lot of you think Barry is causing more harm than good,' he told his players. 'And I don't believe I can excuse his actions any longer. So here's the deal -- I'm going to give you boys the authority to vote on Barry's future. Do you want him to continue on the team, or do you want him off? Keep in mind, our ultimate goal here is to win a national championship, and he's obviously a big part of that. But it's your decision.' Brock walked off, and his troops retreated to the players' lounge to talk."
What did a team in contention for the national championship decide? Every player voted to expel Bonds, save two: outfielders Devereaux and Todd Brown. Turned out the vote was about Bonds, not about Bonds missing curfew. Team members complained he was late for practice and first to leave practice. They didn't like how he referred to himself in the third person, blamed others for his mistakes, would never throw home from the outfield for fear scouts would see he had a weak arm.
Then came a moment like so many other moments in Bonds's life...someone -- usually a coach -- always someone who wanted to use his talent, picked up the pieces. "Brock told the team that because the vote wasn't unanimous, he could not -- 'with a good conscience' -- expel Barry."