One year after Barry Bonds was granted complete acceptance back into the San Francisco Giants organization, Major League Baseball’s all-time home run king was immortalized by the franchise.
Bonds’ No. 25 jersey was officially retired by San Francisco prior to Saturday’s game against Bonds other former team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, making him the 12th player in franchise history to receive the honor.
The ceremony was highlighted by two emotional speeches. One from the man himself, Bonds, who opened up about his relationship with his parents and the pursuit of his father’s approval throughout his development as a man and ballplayer. The other from Bonds’ godfather and mentor, and the greatest Giants player of all-time, Willie Mays, who urged Hall of Fame voters to finally send Bonds to Cooperstown.
Bonds understandably struggled getting through talking about his father, Bobby Bonds, who died in 2003. Bonds selected the No. 25 upon joining San Francisco in 1993 to honor his father, who wore the same number during his Giants years. He was assured throughout the ceremony that his father would have been proud.
Bonds also thanked Mays for being a second father figure and a rock he could always count on. He concluded by thanking Pirates and especially Giants fans for going on the baseball journey with him and welcoming him home.
Willie Mays steals the show
The guest list for Bonds’ big night was quite impressive. Naturally, there were plenty of Giants alumni in attendance, but none were more notable or could possibly shine brighter than Mays.
It was a very special moment as Mays unexpectedly walked to the podium and spoke of the bond he’s shared with Barry and the Bonds family. Mays said he doesn’t like talking at events like this, but obviously had to make an exception for Bonds.
As always, Mays hit a home run.
Also on hand were Giants Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda. Several former Giants teammates were there too, including Ray Durham, Robb Nen and Kirk Reuter. Also attending were Bonds’ former Pirates teammate Bobby Bonilla, and the two managers most closely connected to Bonds’ career, Jim Leyland and Dusty Baker.
Welcomed home with open arms
Bonds received a warm welcome as Giants fans were given the moment they’ve long anticipated. Chants of “Barry, Barry” where audible throughout his extended walk in from center field.
While Bonds remains a villain to much of the baseball world due to his alleged ties to baseball’s “steroids era,” the city of San Francisco has reopened its arms in appreciation. For 15 seasons, Bonds was the face of the Giants franchise and, for better or worse, he’ll forever be a significant part of their legacy.
On a personal level, it was a long overdue homecoming for Bonds. His unceremonious exit from baseball in 2007 didn’t afford him the opportunity to go out on his own terms. Saturday’s ceremony may have finally given him the closure he’s sought for so long.
The San Francisco Giants officially retired Barry Bonds No. 25 during a ceremony at AT&T Park. (AP)
Breaking from tradition
To show their renewed commitment to Bonds, the Giants have broken from their usual protocol when it comes to retiring jerseys. Bonds is the 12th Giants player to have his jersey retired. That covers the team’s time in New York as well. But he’ll be the only one who’s not a Baseball Hall of Famer.
Though Bonds never failed a PED test, the dark cloud of steroid allegations have been enough to keep him out of Cooperstown. Bonds gained minimal added support from voters on the last ballot, going from 53.8 percent to 56.4 percent. The threshold for induction remains 75 percent, making it increasingly questionable whether Bonds will be voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
No other Giants player had worn Bonds No. 25 since his last game, so the team decided it wasn’t worth delaying their honor any longer while waiting for a Hall of Fame honor that may be delayed until the veterans’ committee can weigh in.
The elite group of retired numbers includes Orlando Cepeda (30), Juan Marichal (27), Willie Mays (24), Willie McCovey (44), Gaylord Perry (36) with San Francisco. Members of the New York Giants were Bill Terry (3), Mel Ott (4), Carl Hubbell (11) and Monte Irvin (20). Christy Mathewson and John McGraw have been honored too despite playing before numbers were on uniforms.
The coolest feature
The Giants really went all out to honor Bonds. There was a tribute video narrated by actor Danny Glover. There were taped messages from Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Steph Curry. There was even a special appearance by former Dodgers closer Eric Gagne.
Perhaps the coolest feature though was their detailed retrospective of some of Bonds most impressive home runs at AT&T Park, and more specifically into McCovey Cove. The Giants set up an inflatable baseball marker on the landing spot of all 35 Bonds home runs that reached the Cove.
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