Wednesday, May 15, 2013

#2 Barry Bonds

About the Front: Two cards in, Topps gives us our first look at the horizontal format for 1993. Topps began mixing horizontally-oriented photos back into their base sets in 1991 (they had last done it in 1974), and have done so nearly every year since. I've never been a big fan of horizontal cards, probably because they don't display well in nine-pocket binder pages. But Topps made some great photo choices in this set to optimize the landscape look.

The photo itself is quite good: Barry Bonds is doing what he does best (besides being an enigmatic pain in the ass): destroying a baseball. The photographer captured the moment that the future home run king* made contact, and the blurring of the simultaneously incoming/outgoing ball makes it look as though the ball is bursting apart from the force of the blow. Barry is wearing the red and blue throwback threads of the 1939 Pirates, complete with the centennial sleeve patch that celebrated the great lie of Abner Doubleday's 1839 founding of the game. We can also see that the extensive body armor that allowed Bonds to crowd home plate was already in his arsenal in the early 1990s; even his batting gloves seem to be padded. Lastly, Barry appears to be wearing wristbands bearing his own likeness. He wasn't the only player to go that route in this era.

*= Yes, he's the home run king. Deal with it. Babe Ruth didn't have to hit against the best black pitchers, Hank Aaron took amphetamines, nobody's an angel. He did what he did, and it's done.

About the Back: Playing out the final year of his contract in Pittsburgh, Bonds had a helluva free-agent audition. Despite missing 22 games, he had career highs in runs scored, doubles, home runs, walks, slugging percentage, and batting average. Of course, he more than doubled those 34 homers in his controversial record-breaking 2001 season.

Triple Play:

1. Bonds won SEVEN National League Most Valuable Player awards: 1990, 1992, 1993, and 2001-2004. It's all the more impressive because he was disliked by many of the writers who voted on those awards.

2. I largely remember Barry as the hulking, stationary slugger he became later in his career. But in his first twelve seasons (1986-1997), he averaged 31 home runs and 35 steals per year. He even hit a total of 20 homers leading off games.

3. I called Bonds "enigmatic" above. Submitted as proof: The time he pretended to be Paula Abdul.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always thought that the puff of air inflating Barry's jersey was a bizarre optical illusion that made him look cartoonishly barrel-chested. It was reminiscent of Rick Dempsey's Babe Ruth rain-delay pantomimes.

Bill James Said: "You probably don't want to hear this, but Ted Williams was never the player that this guy is."

On This Date in 1993: May 15. The Alamodome opened in San Antonio. The building still hosts sporting events, concerts, and other events, but the NBA's Spurs played there for just a decade before moving to the SBC Center (now the AT&T Center).


  1. Amen to your asterisk comment. I hate Bonds as much as the next person, but what's done is done. You can't say "what if" and call it history, you have to go with what actually happened warts and all.

  2. You're a man of exceptional judgment, Max.

  3. I agree with you on Bonds. In fact, I just said the same thing yesterday when talking about Gaylord Perry.