Game of Shadows: The Aftermath
New epilogue picks up where sordid saga left off
Posted: Tuesday February 27, 2007 12:09PM; Updated: Tuesday February 27, 2007 6:17PM
By the time the 2006 season began, Barry Bonds was a pariah in every major league city but his own. The Giants opened on April 3 in San Diego. The Padres fans, usually so laid-back, were in no mood to celebrate Bonds as a future Hall of Famer about to pass the Immortal Babe Ruth on the list of all-time home run hitters. Rude signs were everywhere in Petco Park: "BARR-ROID," "Barry is a Cheater," "Asterisk," "Cheaters Never Prosper," "Bonds, 1st into the Hall of Shame."
Even before the first pitch the fans began booing Bonds, and so loud was the mockery that at one point the public address announcer could not be heard. "BALCO," they chanted, and "steroids" and "cheater." The defining moment came at the end of the eighth inning. As Bonds trotted toward the visitors' dugout, a fan tossed a needle-less toy syringe onto the field in the superstar's direction. Bonds, nonplussed, scooped up the syringe with his glove and flipped it into a camera well near the dugout "so no one would get hurt," as he said afterward.
Video of the incident was replayed endlessly on ESPN and local and network newscasts. It was noted in every major newspaper the next morning.
And so began Bonds' season, and a series of road trips unlike anything baseball had ever seen. When the Giants came to town, Bonds was treated as though he were a pro wrestling villain, with the fans booing and shrieking and taunting him, mimicking the act of injecting themselves with steroids, competing with one another to see who could devise the rudest sign or the noisiest, most abusive chant. At Dodger Stadium, they hung a sign reading, "Got Juice?" and chanted, "Bonds sucks!" and "Just Say NO!" In Denver, a fan paraded through the stands wearing a two-foot tall model of a syringe on his head. In Phoenix, a Diamondbacks fan was arrested for throwing a tube of liniment into left field. "To Barry Bonds," the homemade label read. "The CREAM. From Victor Conte."
And in Oakland, some fans came up with a new chant with which to torment the Giants slugger. "Game of Shadows!" they yelled. It was a reference to the book that, more than anything else, had served to crystallize the view of Bonds as a systematic drug cheat.
On March 7, just as spring training was kicking into high gear, Sports Illustrated had run a 10,000-word excerpt from Game of Shadows, with a picture of the Giants star, hatless and pensive, on the cover. SI had considered using the headline, "GUILTY," but instead settled on, "THE TRUTH".
The excerpt provoked an intense reaction, with hundreds of broadcast outlets and newspapers chasing the story of Bonds's long-term use of banned drugs. The furor was just starting to die down when, two weeks later, the book itself was published, setting off another round of intense news coverage and commentary.
For those who cared about the game it was a difficult time, as Dodgers radio announcer Vin Scully, the dean of baseball broadcasters, told the Los Angeles Times. Scully had been at the microphone in 1974 when Atlanta's Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, against the Dodgers, to break Babe Ruth's record. Scully cherished that memory, but he wanted no part of Bonds making history.
"With Aaron, it was a privilege to be there when he did it," Scully said. "With Bonds, no matter what happens now, it will be an awkward moment. That's the best word I can think of now. If I had my druthers, I would rather have that awkward moment happen to somebody else."
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