Barry Bonds was one of baseball's most polarizing figures for 20 years. Even in his early days in Pittsburgh, Bonds was short with the media. This persona popped in San Francisco, a bigger market where Bonds spent more of his prime. The cloud around Bonds only expanded during his 2001 home run chase.
This is how ESPN's David Halberstam depicted Bonds in 2001:
"He has also been one of the most difficult to like. The stories have always been quite shocking. They are not, it should be noted, about a distant, somewhat aloof, rather private young man, who keeps himself apart from the amiable pre-game byplay that can make baseball a good deal of fun.
"Rather, they are about unprovoked, deliberate, gratuitous acts of rudeness towards all kinds of people, other players, distinguished sportswriters. They are of a handsomely rewarded young man of surpassing talent, going out of his way to make the ambiance in which he operates as unpleasant as possible, and to diminish the dignity and pleasure of other men (and now women) who also work for a living, even if their talents are somewhat smaller than his."
Steroid rumors bombarded Bonds for the rest of the 2000s. Bonds consistently denied purposeful steroid use. He told a grand jury he thought the substances given to him by trainer Greg Anderson were flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis. Books such as Game of Shadows brought evidence against Bonds for his part in the BALCO scandal. Bonds was indicted in 2007 on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice.
To this day, Bonds has never admitted guilt to the media. But in a piece by Terence Moore in Sports on Earth Wednesday, Bonds, who is now in his first year as Marlins hitting coach, did admit guilt in terms of his horrid treatment of the media.
"It's on me," Bonds tells Sports on Earth. "I'm to blame for the way I was [portrayed], because I was a dumbass. I was straight stupid, and I'll be the first to admit it. I mean, I was just flat-out dumb."
Bonds said that he never intended to create that sort of image -- his actions "escalated" into that bad-boy reputation, and he chose to perpetuate it rather than prove he was different.
"Hell, I kick myself now, because I'm getting great press [since being more cooperative], and I could have had a trillion more endorsements, but that wasn't my driving force," Bonds says. "The problem was, when I tried to give in a little bit, it never got better. I knew I was in the midst of that image, and I determined at that point that I was never going to get out of it."
But Bonds insists he was a good teammate in San Francisco despite his shortness with the media.
"The one thing that I would never, ever reflect on and talk about changing from the past is my ability with what I did out there on the field," he says. "When it came to [preparing for and playing the game], I did that right. But as far as my attitude and the way I handled things, I just didn't do it the right way. There were times during my career when I really did try, but I wasn't given the benefit of the doubt, because I had already created the monster."
After a long run as the villain, Bonds is setting the stage for a much more amicable second act.