Barry Bonds’ Hall of Fame case: Wearing down sports’ standards

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 Saturday night, in an extravagant pregame ceremony in San Francisco, Barry Bonds became the latest Giant to have his number retired. The first was Christy Mathewson. Bonds and Mathewson had more than the Giants in common. They had chemicals.  Saturday’s game was against the Pirates, Bonds’ team before he grew to become a misshapen Goliath who well into his 30s also grew to become The Game’s home run king.  As if a commercial model for some miraculous potion, Bonds has appeared as a “before,” an “after” and now as a “before.” His normal-sized head, swelled to the size of a plump pumpkin, but has receded to the confines of standard human proportion.  Sunday morning, ESPN’s “SportsCenter” showcased the ceremony in the most favorable terms: A deserving superstar was honored for only the best reasons.  It was ESPN that paid Bonds for exclusive access while he surpassed Hank Aaron’s career home run record. That decision, which included Team Bonds’ pre-approval of content, left many ESPN news staffers appalled and embarrassed, especially among those who had suffered Bonds’ persistent rude side. He avoided good questions about his relationship with the anabolic steroid provider BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.  They didn’t wear numbers when Mathewson was winning 378 games, 1900-1916, thus his “number” appears as the interlocking “NY” the Giants wore.  Mathewson, at 45, died in Saranac Lake, N.Y., near Lake Placid. For decades Saranac Lake was known as a tubercular “cure town.” Abandoned brick hospitals and patients’ cottages remain as ghostly prompts to ask who, what, when, where, why.  Though in his mid-30s and despite his wife’s pleas, Mathewson enlisted in the Army when the U.S. entered World War I. He was accidentally gassed in training. He tried a comeback, but couldn’t breathe.  While Mathewson was finished, in part, due to chemicals, at 35 Bonds had enough chemistry in him to hit 272 more home runs.  And while Mathewson was posthumously selected to be among the first five Hall of Fame inductees, what’s to be done with Bonds, among many other record-busters from the Steroid Era?  Depends on how you look at it.  Certainly the national pastime went on a long crime spree, a national disgrace that relegated clean players to the “Suckers” column. And the team owners’ and dirty players’ great enabler of the period, commissioner Bud “Bottom Line” Selig, entered the Hall almost immediately after he retired. If Hall of Fame standards had been diminished, Selig’s on-the-double inclusion was the next floor down.  Even after Bonds was revealed to have a Body-By-BALCO, Selig allowed team owners to raise the price of tickets when Bonds came to town. “Step right up! See the freak show!”  So what to do about Bonds? It’s no longer a case of baseball’s Hall of Fame refusing to reward the infamous. Before Selig’s entry, George Steinbrenner, a two-counts convicted felon twice suspended from baseball, was appointed to its board of directors.  It
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