Scattered Bonds' reign is in forecast for 1st Series

October 19, 2002|By LAURA VECSEY

ANAHEIM, Calif. - It's no ordinary day when the greatest ballplayer of his generation takes the stage and commences the apparent eradication of an unsightly, unwanted image.

"I never really watched the World Series," Barry Bonds said yesterday.

"I've never been to the Hall of Fame either. I'll go the day somebody says I'm invited or inducted. I figured the World Series meant for me that I'll go the day I get there."

Now that he is here, Barry Bonds seems intent on making the most of the experience. What else can you conclude when Bonds starts talking about fellow MVP teammate and dugout brawl-mate Jeff Kent as if the duo was going to skip into the Hall of Fame together?

"I think Jeff Kent and I complement each other very well. When one's not doing it, the other wants to do it. If one's doing it, the other wants to do better. I think that's outstanding. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Magic Johnson had Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. There's always got to be somebody to help that other person," Bonds said.

Of course, Bonds did not elaborate on who in his analogy was Jordan and who was Pippen, but we'll leave that concession to Bonds' deserved ego alone. This is, after all, the expansive Barry Bonds we have all been waiting for.

Bonds has had 15 years to ponder this important moment. Maybe since Little League, according to him.

"I have the opportunity to be here. I'm excited to be here. It's something I've worked for forever. ... I want to win a World Series," he said.

It may or may not work, this recasting of a legacy. We'll know in about 10 days, when either the Angels, Giants or Bonds wins the 98th World Series.

History tells us that this slugger can't or won't do it, not after all these years of animosity, misunderstanding, misanthropy. He is aloof and cool. He is smart and secure and comfortable in his own skin, despite how it prickles so many who want to embrace him for his immortal baseball accomplishments, only to find they can't. He won't let them. Or at least he hasn't let them.

That's why Barry Lamar Bonds - Agent 613 in the home-run record books - carries so much heavy baggage with him to this place. But yesterday, Bonds set some of it down at the curb outside Edison International Field, where the Anaheim Angels play host to Game 1 of this World Series.

Bonds seemed to be further carving an October image that - on the heels of his four postseason homers and all-powerful presence throughout the Giants victories over the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals - will force even his biggest critics to watch his every move. Listen:

"I came back to San Francisco because of my godfather, Willie Mays, and [because I] had the opportunity to play baseball where I was raised," he said.

"To play baseball in my hometown is a dream come true. I always wanted to play outfield next to my godfather. I just didn't know the age difference at the time. I just said, `I'm going to play the outfield with you, be in left field.' I have the opportunity now to play left field and I play against the ghost of Willie and my dad," he said.

"My dad [Bobby Bonds] played right field, my godfather played center and I play left. I get to have that dream every single day when I step on that field ... "

People, get ready. It is so on. The Barry Bonds World Series.

Angels vs. Giants? The California Classic? No way. Not when baseball has its first home run leader playing in the Fall Classic. His first Series, too.

This is all about Barry. This World Series is like being at home with Ozzie and Anna Nicole Smith and Live with Larry King, all at the same time. This is 24-hour cable. There is no escape. This is All Barry, All The Time, especially now that Barry has decided to open up.

Just ask the guys at Fox. Their World Series broadcast plans already called to feature Bonds in hundreds upon hundreds of cut-away shots, even though Bonds will probably see four straight balls almost every trip to the plate, limiting his "meaningful" air time to 39-second snippets.

Now Barry's kids won't be the only ones who wail: "Why won't you pitch to my dad!" the way they did in the summer of 2001, when Bonds clocked 73 homers, on his way to his current 613.

But no. Wait. Fox won't limit Bonds' face time, not when Agent 613 can also be seen bending his 38-year-old body at the waist, hands on knees in the left-field grass as Giants starting pitcher Jason Schmidt takes signs from catcher Benito Santiago?

And let's pan to Bonds in the dugout, chewing a toothpick.

Look! Cut to Bonds now! He's crossing his burly arms across his burly chest! Amazing.

Yesterday, our 10-day global obsession with Bonds commenced in standard Bonds fashion. You should have seen that classic, frosty mug in action when Bonds teased us by making us think he really is as surly and aloof as he (98.9 percent of the time) appears. Listen:

Reporter: Barry, do you think if a pitcher intentionally walks you, is he being smart or is he not being brave?

Bonds: Next question.

Reporter: Does that mean you are not going to answer the question?

Bonds: No.

Goodness, it was rich. The tension was as thick as Agent 613's bulging, furrowed brow.

But then, just as the birth of his World Series image was about to be unflatteringly etched in the minds and laptops of sports scribes across this land, Bonds seemed to have an epiphany.

He let up. He chilled. He made jokes about playing softball games against Disney characters, about manager Dusty Baker bringing food to the guys, about how he does not let it detract from his game when pitchers won't pitch to him.

"There are other parts of the game of baseball than just swinging a baseball bat," he said.

Sometimes, those other parts of the game involve sharing a little of yourself.

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