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Outside the Lines:
Bonds - For The Record


Here's the transcript from Show 79 of weekly Outside The Lines: Bonds - For The Record

SUN., SEPT. 30, 2001
Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Reported by: Mark Schwarz (ESPN).
Guests: Gary Varsho, former teammate of Bonds; Tim Keown, senior writer, ESPN The Magazine; David Vincent, baseball historian.

Announcer - September 30, 2001.

Bob Ley, host - He's writing history, but not to universal acclaim.

Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants, has hit five HRs in last six games - You can't please the world. You're not going to please the world.

Ley - It's nothing new for him.

Bonds - I've never been that way, and that's probably why I've been the most, at times, controversial person.

Ley - He is one of the greatest players in baseball history. And one of the most complex.

Eric Davis, teammate of Bonds, 16th major league season - Why the media probably don't like him, because he probably didn't grant them interviews when they wanted him to. You know, because he said what was on his mind or he told them to go to hell.

Unidentified Male - He's rude.

Unidentified Male - He appears a lot worse than what he is.

Ley - Just three years after a joyous chase for a sacred record, Barry Bonds is on a solitary mission.

Tom Boswell, "The Washington Post" - He doesn't have the relationship that Mark and Sammy had. There's no way he can (unintelligible).

Ley - This moment and the man. Bonds, for the record.

Ley - It's more than a record; it's American history. And the lineage of the single season home run record, from the bombast of Ruth to the resolve of Maris, to the joyful chase of McGwire and Sosa encompasses emotion and personality as much as it does raw athletic ability.

Which brings us to Barry Bonds, and this moment. He is finishing one of the great offensive seasons in the history of the game. But until this weekend, the echo has been nothing more than polite headline interest. Part of the reason is the refocused reality, certainly, for all Americans in the wake of September 11.

But there is more, and it involves Barry Bonds and that very emotion and personality that has defined all great home run races. Friday night we got a glimpse of the inner Barry under tragic circumstances, the passing of a close friend.

Separating Bonds Hall of Fame skills from his public persona has always been difficult, though some would ask why that has to happen. The fact is they are intertwined.

Mark Schwarz, now, on the man and the record he is poised to break.

Unidentified Announcer - Swing! And it's gone into the corner, it might make it! There it is, 62 folks!

Mark Schwarz, ESPN correspondent - 1998 was the summer of love in Major League Baseball.

Unidentified Announcer - It's because of those two guys right there baseball has never been like this before.

Schwarz - It was a multicultural celebration that gave us goosebumps and left everyone feeling warm and fuzzy. By contrast, America has all but yawned at Barry Bond's solo ascent towards history.

Boswell - I don't think Bonds can make the transition to being someone that we absolutely love for breaking this record, because he doesn't have a Sammy Sosa; he doesn't have the relationship that Mark and Sammy had. There is no Roger Maris family for him to embrace and bring into the moment. There is no way he can make it as wonderful.

Schwarz - Maybe that's because it's only been three years. Maybe it's that half the nation is asleep when Bonds is going deep. Maybe it's that home runs are not as hard to come by any more; or that we've come to realize heroes carry fire hoses, not Louisville Sluggers.

Or perhaps it's as simple as this - Bonds is so often perceived as moody and self-absorbed, often alienated form many of his teammates. A lot like another legendary slugger, who just happens to be his cousin.

Unidentified Male - Reggie Jackson.

Reggie Jackson - Now that was a day I'll never forget. And it helped me to get my own candy, here. Reggie.

Dave Righetti, Giants pitching coach, 1997-'01 - I remember walking into the Yankee clubhouse. I couldn't walk up to Reggie Jackson and just say, hey, how are you doing? Because he'd look at me like, what? You know, if you called Gossage, Rich or something, they'd punch you right in the mouth.

So I mean, it's no different. These guys are just as surly as Barry. Barry is just kind of old-schoolish, and it sticks out nowadays. But 15 years ago, he would have blended right in with a lot of those Yankee teams I was on.

Schwarz - If you ask most Major Leaguers - Do you want Barry Bonds to break the all-time home run record of McGwire, what do you think most would say?

Rich Donnelly, Colorado Rockies coach - No.

Schwarz - Rick Donnelly knows Bonds about as well as anyone in baseball, having coached him for seven years in Pittsburgh.

Donnelly - A guy like Barry, if the media, they attack him, they hoard around him that turns him off to where he is bitter towards you. And he's real quick with his answers, or he'll say, you know, get out of my face.

Schwarz - He has no problem with that, you say?

Jon Miller, ESPN Baseball Announcer, has broadcast Giants games since 1997 - No, not today -- you know what I mean. And he's rude, and people had their feelings hurt. So, you know, all of those things about Barry and the media, I mean, he brought that on himself.

Boswell - If you want to play it that way, take the consequences. What I don't like about Barry is that he plays it that way, and then he acts like it's a raw deal.

Bonds - I am not mean to you for a reason. Sometimes I'm just concentrating on something that I love to do. I don't go out of my way personally to be rude; I don't try to be rude. I get very claustrophobic when there's a ton of people around me. I get very nervous. I don't like it.

Righetti - He's trying to relax out there, and it hasn't been easy. Everybody has made a big deal about his clubhouse chair and all that -- hell Bobby Mercer had a rocking chair. I mean, who cares about all that stuff. You know, I don't. I wouldn't care. But it seems to rub certain people the wrong way, I guess.

Donnelly - He appears a lot worse than what he is. He appears like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. And he's really a softie, he really is.

Tony Gwynn, has batted over .300 for 18 consecutive seasons - He's really, deep down, a good-hearted person. And he loves his family, he loves this game. But he's got those -- he's not going to just open the door and let everybody in.

Davis - Fans love Barry. Barry's led the all-star batter's voting a lot of time. So don't put your hands on that. Why the media probably don't like him, because he probably didn't grant them interviews when they wanted him to. You know, because he said what was on his mind or he told them to go to hell.

Schwarz - Bonds' bitterness is deep-seeded. His rocky relationship with the baseball establishment may have begun years before he became a professional ball player.

Boswell - His father was traded when he was 10 years old, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17. The family's uprooted, the father's always surrounded by, well, what's his problem? Does he party too hard? Is he too much of a pro-labor guy? Does he not say the right things about the manager?

So his son, as he's seeing these lessons (ph) decided who he is as a person, is seeing owners not stand up for his father, general managers not stand up for his father -- managers, sportswriters, fans boo his father. What sort of son with any sense of loyalty for a father he adored is then going to be warm towards those people?

Schwarz - Bonds guards his feelings and his privacy as fiercely as he patrols left field, and he won't submit to any public psychoanalysis.

Bonds - I don't have any problems with it. I had an opportunity to go to St. Louis and New York. And as a child I was just traveling through all these different cities with my father. I thought it was wonderful, to be honest with you, as a kid. But to me baseball is a business; it's a job.

Unidentified Announcer - Number 64!

Unidentified Announcer - 65!

Unidentified Announcer - Number 66!

Unidentified Announcer - 67!

Unidentified Announcer - 68!

Unidentified Announcer - Way back! Number 69 for Barry Bonds!

Schwarz - For a country in desperate need of something to celebrate, perhaps Bonds will be the straw that will stir the nation. Or, perhaps not.

Boswell - The danger here is that we will have a misstep on the way to 71; that he'll say two or three things that really work against him and a lot of people will pile on him; and I hope they won't.

My feeling was that if Sammy Sosa had hit 71, I would have stood up and cheered, and it would have been an easy thing to do. If Bonds hits 71, I won't stand up and cheer, I'll just sit down and clap.

Ley - So often with Barry Bonds it comes down to the media, editorial opinion. A contrary voice heard in yesterday's "New York Times," where columnist William C. Rhoden wrote - "The record and Bonds' pursuit have been intertwined with personality and quirks which some say have dulled the nation's passion for the chase. Don't say that no one cares. I care."

Well to consider Barry Bonds and this moment, we have a journalist and a baseball historian and a former teammate. That former teammate is Gary Varsho, who just finished his third season managing the AA Reading Phillies. He played eight years in the bigs, including two divisional championships with the Pirates as Barry Bonds' teammate. Gary Varsho joins us this morning from Chili, Wisconsin.

Before Tim Keown joined "ESPN The Magazine" as a senior writer, he spent eight years at "The San Francisco Chronicle," where he covered Barry Bonds. Tim Keown is in Fairfield, California this morning.

David Vincent is co-editor of the "Home Run Encyclopedia," a former member of the board of directors of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. And he joins us from Washington, D.C.

Good morning to you all.

We've had the media have their chance, so Gary, let me have a former teammate have his crack. You've heard so many things said about Barry Bonds during this chase and during his marvelous career; what is he like as a teammate?

Gary Varsho, Bonds teammate with the Padres (1991-'92) - One thing that Barry brings to the table everyday is he posts up in left field, and that's one thing as a teammate you can respect. There's a lot of players that would love to have the day off, but not Barry.

And the one thing that people don't realize is that Barry really cares about the game. And he cares enough about it to where, when he got put on the disabled list in '92, he ended up crying in the batting cage because he couldn't play this game any more.

So here's a guy who really goes out everyday and pounds it in, for the most part as a teammate of his, you certainly have enough respect for him to go out there in left field every day and basically get us to the NLCS and get us to the post-season.

Ley - So here he is, Tim Keown, on the cusp of this record. It's been said the buzz hasn't been there. This past week in Los Angeles when he hit his 67th, even though the Dodgers were not going to make any particular plans to stop the game if he got to 70, the fans -- Dodger fans -- stood up and cheered a Giant. So the fans certainly appreciated the moment. Is there a growing buzz? Is the media out of tune with the fans?

Tim Keown, "ESPN The Magazine" senior writer - I think the fans really do appreciate Barry, Bob. And I think Barry's changed some this year. And I think that -- while he can't undo everything that he's done over the past 15 years of his career with the media, with teammates, with people in baseball, I think that gradually there has been an appreciation for Barry. Finally, they're appreciating him as a ballplayer.

And he hasn't made any missteps as a person. He's handled this well, he's done the right things, said the right things. And I think people -- you go around the country, they gave him a standing ovation in Atlanta. They booed when they walked him all over the country. They did that in Montreal, they did it in L.A. And I think there is a growing appreciation for Barry. He can't undo everything, but I think he has made strides.

Ley - Well David, let's put this in historical perspective. Chuck McElroy got taken deep yesterday for number 69 -- the pitcher. And he said after he game, when you look at his stat-line, you're looking at Playstation numbers. You study -- and take the home runs off the board -- put a historical twist on this season that Barry's having.

David Vincent, baseball historian - Well, Barry was never a big home run hitter. He was never a premier home run hitter. But in the last three years, he's certainly stepped it up, and he's putting up what we call Mark McGwire-type numbers this year -- better than McGwire did three years ago.

The one thing I remember about McGwire in '98 is the first thing he did when he crossed home plate was, he picked up his son and gave him a big hug. And there's that family aspect there; and we don't see that. We don't see the personal Barry Bonds this year, either.

Ley - But Tim you've seen moments like that with Bonds and his family.

Keown - I have, and I think he had his little daughter, his 2-year-old daughter with him at a press conference earlier this year, and he was a different guy. He was up there, he was engaging, he was laughing. She carried the day, she was wonderful.

There was a moment in Montreal earlier this year, where he didn't play, and he came in and he pinched-hit late in the game. And his little daughter ran up to the edge of the dugout, touched his hand and pointed to the outfield, pointed to the fence. Clearly saying, hit a home run daddy. He went up as a pinch hitter against Graeme Lloyd, he hit a home run. He came over to the dugout, waved to her; it was a great moment. And I don't know how many people saw it. There was nobody in Montreal. I don't know even if the game was on...

Ley - And how much play did the media give it? I mean, if that had happened in '98, it would have been the stuff of fairy tales.

Keown - It would have been, and I think that a lot of it is the fact that we're only three years removed. Some of it might be the fact that three years later we're going through this again and we're wondering, was it as big a deal back in '98 as we made it out to be? Maybe we sort of feel a little bit silly for caring that much then, because here we are three years later and somebody's going to break it.

Ley - What do you think about that, Gary?

Varsho - Well, I think what Tim said early on about his maturing process and being able to handle all of these things, are very key. Because I think that early in his career in Pittsburgh, there was a young superstar coming into the league, and basically Barry was always on his own trying to handle the media on his own. And with a little help, a little guidance or some leadership I think things could have been turned around earlier in his career.

But he is right, I mean, Barry has been wonderful to my family. There's a lot of things that people don't see. The bottom line is that Barry Bonds, early in his career, I think, has gotten the stereotype of this bad reputation. But Barry Bonds generally is a great person, a great guy, loves the game. And unfortunately he has rubbed some media the wrong way, but the bottom line is that I think with a little help and a little guidance -- sort of like the Phillies now do with our leadership program -- that could have went a long way to basically getting him on the right track.

Ley - OK guys, we'll be back in just a moment, considering Barry Bonds, his season and the record in reach and his approach at this time in history. It is a time in baseball history where the numbers are being racked up.

Tony Gwynn understands the moment and the man.

Gwynn - I've noticed a change in the last three or four years. He's mellowed out a little bit. He's a lot calmer now than he used to be. And, you know, he does press conferences every now and then. I saw one where he had his daughter with him up there. Before you couldn't have got that out of him.

Ley - And when we continue, remember Sammy, Thursday night, with the flag? Could Barry have done something like that, what would the reaction have the reaction been? We'll consider it in just a second.

Bonds - The very sad thing in my lifetime is the day that they announced me into the Hall of Fame. And if my perception continues the way it has continued throughout my career, I don't know what to tell them when I get up there.

I'm going to say thank you, but you missed the show. It's very unfortunate that you did not have the opportunity to enjoy my playing and my performance as what baseball is about and what the game is about. And you emphasized so much on other people's opinions or perception of me, and never really, really, really got to enjoy me play.

Ley - Really a sad sound bite.

The 50 home run season used to be a rare jewel, a validation of power. Prior to 1990, it had happened 17 times. Since 1990, and these 11 seasons, that number has already been equaled; 17 different homerun performances. Shaun Green, Jim Thome each right now sitting on 48.

And we are back to consider Barry Bonds for the record, with Gary Varsho and Tim Keown and David Vincent. David, let's talk about the devaluation of the home run. And we talked about whether we got maybe a little bit too over exuberant in '98. How much has the home run been devalued?

Vincent - This is obviously a big offensive time in the game. But there have been others like this. We had, late '20s and early '30s, when there was a lot of offense. And then the pitchers dominated for a while. It swings back and forth. And now, probably the offense is getting at a greater pace than ever before. But I suspect we'll see it go back towards the pitchers game, at least a little bit in the near future. I just don't want to see a 90-home run season, that's all.

Ley - Could we, Tim?

Keown - The way we're going now, I'm not sure we can't. But I think that the ballparks are getting smaller -- that has another impact on the game. I think the players are taking care of themselves.

Look at Barry. I mean, he has made the transition from being a speed and power guy to being mostly a power guy with very little in between. It's been seamless. And I think that that has a lot to do with it. The way these guys take care of themselves. The pitching is not getting any better right now. We could go -- I don't know about 90 -- I think it looks like 80 is possible.

Ley - Well Gary, you made a living hitting a baseball. And the concentration that's required -- the one thing you hear about Bonds from people that know the game, and you know the game, is the way he is unparalleled in sitting on a pitch, picking out a pitch and acting on it. Is that the same sort of concentration that you can use maybe, to tune out everything around the racket itself and maybe achieve a little bit of zen here in this season?

Varsho - Well, the one thing that Barry has been able to do, and I can't believe he's been able to do it for this long, is be able to keep his concentration. The one thing he's always been able to do, if you watch Barry Bonds when he's not playing and not playing left field, is that he's on the bench, and he's actually studying the pitcher and picking up things.

And a lot of times in this game, especially with the way people move around, there's a lot of things that Barry knows in his head -- how a certain pitch is coming because how a pitcher holds the ball and what he's doing to tip things off.

So he's actually relying more on when he's not playing. So when he goes up there, he's able to get that pitch and get a pretty good swing on it. So right now Barry Bonds, again, for a full season of concentration -- it's unbelievable -- his slugging percentage and on-base percentage have basically been unheard of for a long time.

Ley - This is an emotional time, certainly, in America. And we all saw what happened when Sammy Sosa, in his first home game back in Wrigley Field, when the Cubs rejoined their season Thursday evening, went deep first inning. He took the flag out before the game, and also after he homered in the first inning, grabbed the flag there from Billy Williams at first base.

Tim, Sammy could do this. Sammy's got a reservoir of good will. Had Barry done anything like that, what would have happened?

Keown - Barry couldn't have done that. I don't think it would have been received the same way. It would have been seen as contrived. It would have been seen as somebody who is trying to remake his image.

But I think an important point that needs to be made about Barry is that he wouldn't have tried to do this. He does not have any illusions about his place. And I don't think that the type of thing -- he's a showman to a certain extent. But Sammy, obviously, is a showman of a different sort. He has incredible good will with the people.

Sammy could come up before the season and say, I want to hit 80 home runs this year, and everybody would laugh and write it down. Now if Barry came out before the season, or came out midway through the season and said, I think I'm going to get the record -- I'm shooting for 80, I'm shooting for 75 -- it would be seen as, oh, there's arrogant Barry again.

And I think that you can't undo what you've done in the past. And I think it's not -- I want to make the point that it's not simply the media, because he has alienated people in baseball; he's alienated people that work for teams. He has done things to make people feel small. And I think that a lot of people feel that it's been calculated. And that has something to do with it, as well.

I do, again, feel that he has made great strides this year. I think people do appreciate him more. But as far as carrying a flag around the bases, I think that might be stretching it for Barry.

Vincent - Tim, a couple years ago in spring training, Barry said he planned to catch his godfather, Willie Mays, in the home run list at 660, and everybody laughed at him. They said that's impossible and put him down for it.

Keown - Now that looked modest.

Vincent - Yes.

Ley - Gary, reflect for a second on that sound bite we heard a few moments ago. I mean, that really is a profoundly sad, and perhaps accurate observation, that in eight, nine, 10 years when he goes into Cooperstown, people will have missed the show.

Varsho - You're right, and he's right. Because the fact is, when I returned back to the Pirates in '94 and Barry was no longer there, we really missed Barry Bonds.

And there was a lot of things that -- you end up tolerating a lot of personalities in a Major League locker room. But the bottom line is, when -- Jim Leyland handled it the best, I thought, by far. And he had 25 personalities along with the coaching staff to get on one page. And basically just going out there to win every night.

But unfortunately they are going to miss the boat on Barry. When Barry's gone, they're going to appreciate Barry a lot more. And right now they have a chance to really catch history. They have a chance to really see what kind of a special player this guy is in the big leagues.

Ley - Well he'll go for 70 beginning today. ESPN will have the game at 4 p.m. Eastern time.

Let's go around the horn here one last time. Let's assume -- obviously he'll get to 70 and advance the record even further. When we look back on the season, we know how we look back on '98 now. Five years from now, when we look back on 2001 -- Gary, how will we look back on this season?

Varsho - Well, I think it's going to take some time to really appreciate it only because of the tragedy that has happened here in our country. But, we're going to look at it like, this was a gigantic season for Barry Bonds and the thing is, he's a traditionalist. He deserves the record because he appreciates the game.

And I think it's just going to take some time for this country to really appreciate it. But right now, I think everybody is honed in on that number 70. And as soon as it happens, I think baseball will get back on the right track.

Ley - Tim, one quick sentence if you could.

Keown - I think that Barry will be appreciated cumulatively, where in five years we'll look at his career and say he was one of the best five ever. And look at this one season, will be sort of the benchmark for what he could accomplish.

Ley - David, I've got to shortchange you. We're out of time. But I appreciate all of you gentlemen for joining us today.

Thanks to Gary Varsho and to Tim Keown and to David Vincent; thank you gentlemen.

Next, the backlash against Muslims, and the reaction to last week's program in the wake of the attack of September 11.

Unidentified Child - While we were watching the game, we couldn't be having fun while all these people right next to us, they probably are talking to each other mumbling about us. And it doesn't feel good.

Unidentified Child - I mean, why should you be in a game when you know some people are talking about you?

Ley - Muslim youngsters we spoke with last week. And now from our e-mail in-box.

One viewer writing - "I find it hard to be sympathetic to some child in Brooklyn that doesn't want to go to a Yankee game because he might receive a dirty look when more than 6,000 people will never get to go home again. The Islamic community in this country will and should be suspect until we can be sure we have rooted out these terrorists networks. After all, these attacks were committed in the name of Islam and were conducted by Muslims living amongst us."

From Las Vegas - "Am I angry at what happened in New York? Yes. But my anger isn't towards all Middle Eastern people, but towards the terrorists. Being of Puerto Rican decent and living in America all my life, I still feel like a minority, and I've faced racism and prejudice all my life. We as Americans need to redirect our anger towards the individuals who did this and leave the others alone."

You can watch last week's program and all our Sunday morning Outside The Lines shows at And you can address your e-mail, which we sample each week, to; and thanks for being in touch.

Ley - Tonight after "NFL Primetime" we've got the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles at 8:30 Eastern. And I'll be rejoining Robin Roberts in 30 minutes for another edition of "SportsCenter." All of last night's highlights. We'll unveil the brand-new top 25 poll.

Now Mike Lucas is sitting in for Dick Schaap from the ESPN Zone in Times Square. Time now for "The Sports Reporters."

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 Outside The Lines
ESPN's Bob Ley examines Barry Bonds chase of the home run record.

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