Barry Bonds' last apparent at-bat as a San Francisco Giant came against San Diego ace Jake Peavy, on his way to winning his 19th game of the year. At that point, the score was 9-2, there were two outs, no one was on base, and my brother turned to me and said "Peavy ought to groove one."
Which he did. Don't suppose we'll ever know, but it sure looked like Peavy, the Padre catcher (and perhaps even San Diego manager Bud Black, a former teammate of Bonds) had decided to tell Barry the next pitch was going to be a fat one. Bonds hit it to the deep part of the park, close to 400 feet, for an out. He then gave Peavy a hug.
Right now, Jake Peavy is my favorite Padre.
Tonight was the night that haters weren't allowed. At other times during the last few years, there'd be a few donkeys in the crowd jeering rather than cheering at Bonds, but tonight, those people either stayed home or kept quiet out of respect. Bonds got one standing ovation after another. When he caught an easy fly ball, he got an ovation. When he grounded out weakly down the first-base line, he got an ovation. When he butchered a couple of plays in the outfield, he got an ovation. When a fan ran out on the field in the general direction of Barry, only to be escorted off by the cops, the crowd began chanting "Bar-RY! Bar-RY!" When he came up for the second time, and the most memorable of his various entrance themes was played ("The Next Episode"), everyone stood and cheered. He grounded to the pitcher, and everyone cheered. When he hit that last long fly, everyone cheered. He hugged Peavy, he pointed a farewell to Black in the Padre dugout, he walked off the field. We cheered. One by one he gave and received hugs from his teammates and coaches. We continued to stand and cheer. Finally, before the game began again, he stepped out of the dugout one last time. We clapped and cheered, and he returned the favor, clapping towards the stands and then pointing to various areas. He then left for the clubhouse, and the cheering died down at last.
There will be plenty of time for a post mortem of this awful season, and plenty of time to look towards what will likely be an awful future (in 1994, the Giants let longtime fan favorite and top-notch player Will Clark go, which wasn't completely stupid, except they forgot to replace him, and the team ran one nonentity after another out there for a few years ... hopefully we won't be seeing the 2008 equivalent of Todd Benzinger playing leftfield for the Giants). I will note that the only way dumping Bonds will work out for the Giants is if they know what they are doing (i.e. they don't replace Bonds with somebody crappy, and don't re-sign Pedro Feliz, and don't re-sign Omar Vizquel), and I don't think they do, so it's going to be a long couple of years.
I'll say this. When the Giants traded Willie Mays, he was 41 years old and hitting .184. When they sold Juan Marichal, he was 36 years old and coming off of two losing seasons. When Willie McCovey retired in mid-season, he was 42 years old and hitting .204 with 1 HR.
Barry Bonds is 42 years old. This season he hit 28 homers, including the one that made him the all-time HR champ. He led the league in OBP and walks. He made the All-Star team. He even stole five bases without being caught. He missed almost 40 games, but when he did play, he remained one of the best hitters in the game. So, when he played tonight despite an injury that should have kept him on the bench, when he went 0-for-3 with only one good swing the entire night, when he flopped around in the outfield, we weren't sad, the way people were sad watching Willie Mays at the end of his career. Barry had a poor game because he was injured, and yes, he's old, too, but the sucker was still performing at a high level at the age of 42.
And on this night, the haters stayed home.