Andy Van Slyke played centerfield next to Barry Bonds for six seasons in Pittsburgh, and in all those years, as former Pirates coach Rich Donnelly put it, "the only time Andy spoke to Barry was to say, 'I got it.'"
United by position--both were All-Star outfielders who won Gold Gloves--the two Pirates were divided by disposition. Even now, the surly Bonds and the sunny Van Slyke are like night and day. Bob Knight and Doris Day.
Bonds broods over a federal steroids investigation. Van Slyke says his biggest problem in 13 major league seasons was figuring out how to spend $43 a day in meal money.
Bonds says he's grown accustomed to chants of "Barry sucks!" on the road. Van Slyke never could tell the difference between home stands and road trips, except for this: "On the road," he said, "when you go downstairs for coffee in your underwear, they throw you out of the kitchen."
Barry's Grumpy. Andy's both Happy and Dopey. (Or so Van Slyke would have you believe.) The eldest of his four sons, A.J., is a junior at Kansas and a big league prospect. "He's the smart one," says Andy. "Intelligence skips a generation, like male-pattern baldness. A.J. will be bald and smart, like his granddad. A.J.'s son will be stupid, but he'll have a giant Afro."
Van Slyke retired 10 years ago to suburban St. Louis, where last week he watched Bonds claim in a televised press conference, "I don't know what cheating is." Then Bonds called every reporter in attendance a liar. To Van Slyke--whose 18-year-old son, Scott, will attend Ole Miss next year on a baseball scholarship-- Bonds's behavior was exemplary.
"If I were a minor league director," he says, "I would show a tape of that press conference to all my players and say, 'This is how not to conduct yourselves.'"
Andy and his wife, Lauri, have been married for 22 years. The day after their wedding night Van Slyke played third base for the Triple A Louisville Redbirds and committed four errors in six innings. Which is how he became a centerfielder. In the years that followed the personality gap between leftfield ( Bonds) and center ( Van Slyke) became wider than the physical gap.
"Barry has never figured out that in life, he is ultimately in control of how people perceive him," says Van Slyke. "His problem is, maybe the way people perceive him is the way he actuallyis. I don't think [ Giants catcher] Mike Matheny has been fooling people over the years that he's a wonderful guy. He is a wonderful guy. Likewise, if people don't like you, don't blame the messenger."
Van Slyke has been retired for only nine full seasons, but '95 now seems as distant as the Dead Ball era. Only six of the National League ballparks he played in are still in use, no current park has artificial turf, and Roger Maris's single-season home run record has been shattered repeatedly. "I feel like I played in a time warp," says Van Slyke, who retired at 34, an age at which many players are now--oddly--just entering their physical primes.