Hammering home the final nails in Barry’s Giants coffin
As much indignation as Barry demonstrated by leaving AT&T Park Wednesday night before the game ended, it was almost a case of tit for tat. “Designer” Mark Ecko who purchased Bonds’ record breaking home run ball 756 for $752,467 announced the destiny of the ball.
To determine the fate of the ball, he created a website, www.vote756.com, which lets visitors vote on what they think should happen to it. Visitors' where given a choice of giving the ball to the Hall of Fame, branding the ball with an asterisk before giving it to the Hall of Fame, or putting the ball on a rocket to be launched into space. Voting ended on September 25th, 2007 at 9:00 PM (EST)/6:00 PM (PST). Over 10,000,000 votes were tallied in all.
On September 26th, 2007, on The Today Show, Ecko revealed that the public, voting with a 47% plurality, wanted to brand the ball with an asterisk and send it to Cooperstown. 34% wanted the ball sent to the Hall of Fame without an asterisk and only 19% wanted the ball to be shot into space.
In reaction to the result of the vote, Dale Petroskey, the President of the Cooperstown Hall of Fame stated that, although he was "delighted to have the ball", the acceptance of the ball with an asterisk on it did not mean that Cooperstown believes that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs to obtain his record. Petroskey appeared on The Today show with Ecko.
"Since the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum first opened in 1939, the generosity of players, teams and fans, like Marc Ecko, has made it possible to preserve baseball history in Cooperstown," Petroskey said. "Every one of the nearly 35,000 artifacts in our collection has been donated.
"We're grateful to Marc for donating this baseball, which represents one of the game's most historic records. Baseball belongs to the fans -- it always has and always will. The asterisk represents the voice of the fans at this moment in time. The level of interest reflects the strong bond between baseball and American culture. Our responsibility as a history museum is to present every story in proper context, and this ball allows us to do that."
Bonds hasn’t offered any reaction to the news #756 is heading to Cooperstown branded with an asterisk, but Bonds wasn’t happy when he first heard of Ecko’s plans soon after the designer purchased the ball at an auction.
"He's stupid. He's an idiot," Bonds told The San Francisco Chronicle. "He spent $750,000 on the ball and that's what he's doing with it? What he's doing is stupid."
Barry Bonds personality, how difficult he has made it for the media made Barry Bonds the perfect folly for baseball fans and the media when it came to commenting on athletes who allegedly may have benefited from the use of performance-enhancing drugs. It’s so easy to “hate” Barry Bonds. Hate is a very strong word to use, but when it comes to Barry Bonds the results of Ecko’s vote shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.
There are countless examples of Barry Bonds behavior with the media and other people (often current and former baseball players) where not only has Barry Bonds behavior made one wonder what kind of a man could do what Barry is accused of, but does Barry Bonds only care about Barry Bonds.
In June 2005 excerpts of former Chicago White Sox Ron Kittle’s book were leaked. The passage that found its way to various media outlets focused on an encounter Kittle had with Barry Bonds, an alleged tale that painted Bonds in the worst possible light.
The Bonds incident involved Ron Kittle and a meeting Kittle didn’t enjoy with Bonds at Chicago’s Wrigley Field in 1993. Kittle hoped to auction a signed Barry Bonds jersey at a golf event, with the proceeds being given to a children’s charity. Kittle has written a book, “Ron Kittle's Tales from the White Sox Dugout” and included Bonds reaction to being asked to autograph a jersey which would benefit needy children.
"I paid about $110 of my own money for them, so they could be auctioned off at the golf outing. I did that all the time for stars like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens. When I tell them how their autographs help the cause, every player gladly signs — with one exception.
I walked up to Bonds at his locker in the Wrigley Field visitors' clubhouse, introduced myself and said, "Barry, if you sign these, they'll bring in a lot of money for kids who need help."
Bonds stood up, looked me in the eye and said, "I don't sign for white people." If lightning hits me today, I will swear those were his exact words. Matt Williams and other Giants were in the room and they heard what Bonds said.
I stood there for a minute, and the veins in my neck were popping. I've only been that mad a few times in my life. I was going to beat the (heck) out of him, really kick his (butt), but Williams saw what was happening, so he came over and got between us. Matt said, "Ron, that's just the way he is."
I said, "White guys aren't the only ones who get cancer," but Bonds had turned his back on me and walked out of the clubhouse. Somebody must have run in and alerted Dusty Baker, who was the manager of the Giants then.”
Bonds, initially choose to ignore Kittle’s accusations. Bonds spoke with MLB.com’s Rich Draper and fired these words of wisdom in Kittle’s direction.
"Who is Kittle? How long did he play? He played in our league?" asked an incredulous Bonds. "So what did he say? Ha! Do you guys truly believe that? Do you guys truly believe it?"
Bonds says "it's common sense" in denying Kittle's claims.
"Out of fairness to me -- do you guys know my life history a little bit? So why don't you write it's a bunch of [garbage] -- why don't you write that? One, you insult my children, who are half-white; I was married to a woman who was white, so let's get real.
"And I don't even know the guy. And tell him he's an idiot. Tell him that. Somebody said he wanted a piece of me; tell him I'm at 24 Willie Mays -- what's this street called? -- Plaza, and he can come meet me any time he wants to. With pleasure."
Takings Bonds comments at face value, clearly the man has issues with what Ron Kittle is accusing him of doing. Everyone has the right to be upset when they are accused of making terrible comments and in Kittle’s case while he doesn’t come right out and call Bonds a racist the implications are clear – by refusing to sign the Barry Bonds baseball jersey because , "I don't sign for white people.", if true Bonds is indeed a racist.
Instead of attempting to set the record straight (in Bonds mind he may indeed have done that), Bonds calls Kittle an ‘idiot’ a term Johnny Damon and members of the Red Sox may find endearing but most others do not and also offers this assessment of Kittle’s Major League career "Who is Kittle? How long did he play? He played in our league?"
All Barry Bonds managed to accomplish with his rude and boorish behavior was to further damage whatever was left of his terrible image. Great people rise above bad things that are said about them and move forward. Great people are never afraid to admit they have made a mistake and move forward. Great people set examples as to the type of people they are and move forward. Barry Bonds didn’t do any of those things in reacting to Kittle’s story; all he managed to do was bring credibility to what Kittle said about him.
As for Kittle, he offered these comments to the Associated Press: "It's the truth. I don't lie," Kittle told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday. "I tell it as it is. It's unfortunate it happened. And I didn't bring it up to sell the books."
Incidents and similar experiences others have had with Barry Bonds fuel how the media (and therefore the public feel about Barry Bonds). It’s impossible to speculate why Barry Bonds acts the way he does, but does it take away from how he’s performed on a baseball diamond – of course not.
As for Bonds calling him “an idiot” it doesn’t appear the designer who didn’t have any real connection to the sports world really cares what Barry Bonds thinks about his personality.
"Today" co-host Matt Lauer asked Ecko if he was offended by those comments.
"Not really," Ecko said. "I've been called worse, for sure."
In a subsequent news release issued by his company, Ecko elaborated on the results:
"The fans have spoken and the asterisk will forever be part of the history of this ball. It is a reflection of fans' sentiments and will be preserved by the Hall of Fame in this manner. This was never about the record. I saw the purchase of the ball as an opportunity to open a national conversation using new media -- the Internet, blogs, videos -- to allow America's oldest sport to have America's most modern conversation. The people should be the arbiters of what is historically significant about this artifact. The opportunities for expression, and our participation in the public square, are endless.
"We are gratified to have the Hall of Fame's support in this effort. Its curatorial staff is working with us to carry out the popular vote while preserving the ball. Being in the Hall of Fame will ensure that future generations can read about, reflect on and keep the discourse of this moment alive."
Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland who managed Barry when Barry played for the Pittsburgh Pirates (the first six years of his MLB career) isn’t impressed with what Ecko decided to do with the ball.
"I disagree with that totally, because I don't think there should be an asterisk on it," said Leyland, Bonds' first skipper with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
New York Times’ columnist William C. Rhoden made it clear Sunday; he isn’t pleased by Ecko’s decision. Rhoden also took exception to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s agreeing to accept the ball branded with the asterisk.
“Ecko says his statement and his message reflect the ambivalence of a cynical generation. The cynicism is that personal wealth can shape history and skew reality.
“I would call this cynical: Ecko paid $752,467 in an online auction for Barry Bonds’s record-breaking 756th home run ball. He then had a web site set up and asked fans to vote on what he should do with the ball: put an asterisk on it before donating it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame; leave it alone and send it to Cooperstown as is; or blast it into space.
“If Hall officials stood on principles, they would tell Ecko to give them the ball without graffiti or keep it. This is a silly prank that has no place in the Hall of Fame. A fashion designer is putting his spin on history, forcing the Hall to accept that spin as a condition of receiving the historic ball.”
Is the Baseball Hall of Fame right or wrong to accept the ball? Tough question to answer, but in all fairness to the Hall of Fame they’ll have the final say as to how they display the baseball. For those who have traveled to the Hall of Fame, baseballs displayed at the Hall of Fame are each placed in a ball holder. What’s to prevent the Hall of Fame from placing Ecko’s ball directly on the asterisk? Fans would be aware the asterisk was there but it wouldn’t be seen. Not an ideal solution but somewhat of a compromise.
Is the Baseball Hall of Fame as Roden suggests being hijacked by Ecko in an attempt for Ecko to market his company and his product line? Well if that were true not only has the Hall of Fame been taken for a ride but so have the media and baseball fans. Mark Ecko may be well known in the fashion community, but before this began after Ecko bought the ball his persona didn’t extend to the sports industry. Only Mark Ecko knows if he is attempting to take advantage of an opportunity, but at the end of the day Ecko paid $752,467 for the right to do whatever he wanted with the ball. And if Mark Ecko believes his business can grow from buying the baseball, so be it. He earned the money and he can spend it as he wants too.
Is Mark Ecko making a mockery of Barry Bonds accomplishment? That would in no way compare to how Major League Baseball treated Barry Bonds. The real indignation is in how Bud Selig and MLB reacted to Bonds hitting #756 – not in what Mark Ecko decided to do with the ball.
When Barry’s date with destiny arrived, a moment that will stand as one of the greatest achievements in baseball history time stood still and Bonds rounded the bases to a thunderous standing ovation that lasted well in excess of 10 minutes – two lasting images will forever be linked to a “Priceless Moment” in baseball history – the image of Hank Aaron praising Bonds on AT&T’s jumbo scoreboard and the glaring absence of the most inept, inane and incompetent person ever associated with on the management side of professional baseball – the man masquerading as baseball commissioner Allan Bud Selig.
Following the MLB All-Star Game played at AT&T Park Selig decided he would attempt to follow Bonds around has he approached and then tried to pass Hank Aaron’s career mark of 755. Selig never made it back to AT&T and hasn’t seen Bonds since before he hit 756.
As graceful as Aaron was, it will forever be unimaginable to imagine how Bud Selig managed to top the shame he brought to the commissioner’s office Saturday night when Bud looked like he was receiving an enema when Barry hit number 755 and then stood with his hands in his pocket’s at San Diego’s Petco Park will remain etched in the memories of those who respect what true leadership is as a moment that will stand as a testament for what never to do.
Bud left the Bonds train after that Sunday game reportedly to return to handle routine baseball matters at his Milwaukee’s offices. What emerged Tuesday evening while hopefully not meant to directly humiliate Barry Bonds is proof positive Bud Selig has no intention of respecting Barry Bonds and when it comes to Barry Bonds the tradition his record brings to the game. Bud may claim he respects baseball’s traditions but when it comes to Barry Bonds Bud doesn’t seem to understand (unlike Hank Aaron) the two are one and the same.
According to MLB.com and an Associated Press report Bud left Barry sitting by the side of the Bay – to meet with Senator George Mitchell to discuss the progress of Sen. Mitchell’s steroid commission looking into the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball.
And several weeks later when the Giants honored Barry, Bud didn’t attend that event as well. What message did Bud Selig and Major League Baseball send to baseball fans and the media by not personally acknowledging Bonds’ achievement? Everyone knows exactly how Bud Selig feels but its more important that MLB’s leader look beyond how he personally feels about Barry Bonds’ personality and what Barry Bonds is alleged to have done and do what’s best for baseball and that’s taking a strong leadership position.
But Bud is not alone in how he’s dealing with baseball’s new home run king. Saturday afternoon’s Fox Game of the Week featured the State Farm ad that has run throughout the baseball season that features an African-American male reflecting on the moment in time when Hank Aaron hit number 715 to surpass Babe Ruth’s career mark of 714 home runs. The spot ends with the Braves broadcaster from that fateful April night proclaiming “there’s a new home run king”. Trouble is that home run is no longer the home run king, that honor belongs to Barry Bonds
For SportsBusinessNews this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: Pittsburgh Tribune Review and The San Francisco Chronicle