Mostly really cool with some not so cool.
I know this might come off as douchey but I kind of preferred watching the pre-steroid Bonds. Not because of any moral qualms - any doubts we had about the man and his performance were trumped hard by the knowledge that the rest of the league was full of similarly enhanced players, which was itself trumped harder by our disgust at the rest of the country's inability to recognize that obvious truth. No, it was partly because I was a little kid and everything is more amazing when you're 8 than when you're 16, and partly because it was, removed from the context of record chases, a more exciting brand of baseball he was playing in the 1990s. The guy fielded like Willie, ran like Rickey, and still hit 40-45 jacks a year. As the power numbers shot up around the league he was practically a throwback for a couple years.
Then of course he started juicing and turned into Godzilla. And sure it was fun rising to our feet every time the man walked toward the box. Obviously it was fun watching him hit home runs. It was even a marvel to watch how many balls he got to in LF after he lost his speed to age and sheer body mass, thanks to nothing but superb positioning based on what seemed like perfect knowledge of every hitter on every team in the National League. But while home runs are awesome they're not quite as awesome as everyone thinks, and watching him murder every pitcher with the balls to face him wasn't quite so thrilling as watching the guy who did every
thing better than every
one, and who could do any of those things at any time. With Mega Bonds you knew what you were getting. Walk, walk, home run, warning-track fly out, walk.
Man, did those walks suck. My worst Bonds memory is not the steroid mess, it's not him dismissing fans (which he did frequently but less consistently than was reported). It's certainly not him dismissing sportswriters, who I quickly grew to realize were largely petty talentless hacks who hated the games and athletes they covered. It's not even Bonds routinely failing to run out pop flies, which cost him extra-base hits on more than one dropped ball. No, my worst Bonds memory was all the fucking walks. I hated them because they were so deflating, because of the sense of despair that set in when we remembered that Armando Rios or Edgardo Alfonzo was hitting behind Barry ("protecting" him, ostensibly), because they dragged the game out. But most of all it was that after about midway thru 2001, when teams walked Bonds the PA system at Mays Field would play the fucking Chicken Dance and the ushers handed out rubber chickens for people to wave. When this became a thing they stopped handing them out and started selling chickens at every merch stand right next to the XL #25 jerseys. And people fucking bought them, and waved them around and around, 200 goddamn times a year. And they booed when he would get IBBed with a runner on second and nobody on first like it hadn't even crossed their minds it was possible let alone inevitable. I always hated sportswriters and out of town fans who complained that Giants fans were mindless Bonds boosters who ignored the steroids, the arrogance and everything else, or that they were yuppies who didn't know the game and only wanted to watch Barry smack dingers. Those fucking walks were the only time I thought they had a point.
My best Bonds memory is a tie. First there's the stretch run of the 1997 season when, after being denied the playoffs in 1993 despite 103 wins, and then after suffering through 3 losing seasons (2 in last place), we had a fucking miracle team (with the aforementioned JT Snow hitting 28 homers and winning Batman's love for all time; that's what I mean by miracle) that was tied with the Dodgers for first place when this game happened
. (Even after the Series last year it's still the most fun I've ever had watching baseball and that's despite missing the first six innings because of school.) 12th inning, Brian Johnson homers for the sweep, puts us in first place for the first time in 49 months and the first man to greet him at the plate is selfish, aloof, non-team-guy Barry fucking Bonds. Then he gets on top of the dugout and starts pumping up the crowd and hugging the fans in the front rows. A week later when we clinched it was the same scene. Bonds on the dugout, Bonds in the stands, people going apeshit. I was at this one and we didn't leave for 20 minutes after it ended.
The other is in August 2003, right after Bobby Bonds died and Barry took a 4-game series off to come back for the funeral. The Expos swept all four. Barry returns to the lineup for the first game against Atlanta (again, I'm there) and goes hitless (2 walks, of course) but we somehow make it to extra innings. This was back when John Smoltz was closing for the Braves, and it was easily his best year as a reliever (finished with a 1.12 ERA). But because it's a tie and not a save opportunity Cox doesn't bring him in; I am audibly appalled and shout my mockery from the 38th row where obviously he and his relief ace Ray King can hear me.
"Just watch. Barry's up. You're gonna regret this one."
BAM. Splash hit. Game over. Barry points to the heavens and 42 thousand people know exactly why.
Two nights later, I'm watching on TV and again it's the tenth inning. Again Bonds is due up. Again Cox doesn't use Smoltz. Again - BAM. High, deep, outta here. Game over.
Sometimes home runs are even more awesome than everyone thinks.