The steroid era in baseball feels never ending, which is maybe why it doesn’t feel at all strange that Barry Bonds is only now getting his number retired, despite playing is last official major league game over a decade ago, and being one of the greatest players of his generation. The shadow cast over his career has yet to recede, with fans and media still unrelenting in their lack of forgiveness. Another actor in this scandal is happy to move on, however, and that’s Major League Baseball, who made Barry Bonds the black fall guy for steroids.
Although only a fractional number of even the best amateur baseball players get the chance to sniff the pros, hundreds of pro players have been caught or suspected of using some form of banned substance. The practice of using banned substances dates back to Babe Ruth, and baseball is a game of disadvantages to begin with (how many homers would Bonds have hit had he played in Colorado?), but steroids seemed to really rub fans the wrong way. Maybe it was the underhanded nature, maybe it’s the fact that most fans are ignorant to the substance related skeletons in baseball’s closet. Regardless, when it became clear that the steroid issue was here to stay, whether intentionally or otherwise, major league baseball made Barry Bonds the face of it all, and the fans ate it up.
Many remembers the boos Bonds faced at every road at bat, but fewer remember the syringe thrown on the field, or the gorilla signs. The FBI even got involved, and tried unsuccessfully to railroad Bonds into several various counts, nearly getting their way until a panel of judges finally voted 10-1 to toss Bonds’ case out for good. Though never being convicted of a crime, and never caught by the league, Bonds’ name became synonymous with cheating. Though other stars, including a former home run champion in Mark McGuire were caught, and eventually admitted to use of steroids, Bonds took nearly one-hundred percent of the public blame.
In ranking the injustices of the world, Bonds, who once remarked that “racism ain’t changing,” being denied entry to the hall of fame isn’t one of much concern. However, as he has his number retired this weekend, it's crucial to remember the roll race likely played in Bonds becoming the face of unfairness in a game that once banned non-white players from participating.
At its core, the distinctive quality of baseball is that it's a game of opportunity. No matter the score, no matter the count, as long as there are less than three outs, it’s anyone’s ballgame. Many have emphasized that fact as a keynote in why baseball is said to be a metaphor for life in America. Like life in America, however, that opportunity isn’t as evenly distributed as one might assume. Whether it be the segregation in the game prior to Jackie Robinson, or the dominance of big market teams who can afford to shell out for the best players, the game’s highest accolades and accomplishments have never been available to all. Barry Bonds is likely the greatest position baseball player of his generation, possibly of all time, but he’ll never get the opportunity for that consideration because he became the black face for baseball’s collective shame.
Dylan James Harper is the Political Editor for CSUITEMUSIC.com
Read more from Dylan at http://www.dylanjamesharper.com