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Baseball Hall of Fame preserves history, no matter how messy it is

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Barry Bonds was a very hard man to like.

As a baseball reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area, it just rubbed me wrong to go into the Giants’ clubhouse and see him sitting there in his living room lounge chair when all his teammates were on stools.

You think of a team as an “all-for-one and one-for-all proposition,” and not so much the “let’s talk about me, me, me,” mentality, with apologizes to Toby Keith.

I would not be so bold to say that none of Bonds’ teammates liked him, but I definitely knew that some of them didn’t like him very much.

As a sportswriter, you know at times that you are inherently the enemy, so you understand when a player tries to rip off your head with an angry stare. When you see that particular player joking around and enjoying his teammates, you understand there is another side to that player. I’m sure there was a nicer, kinder side of Bonds that I just never had the opportunity to see.

Considering that the baseball writers vote on those inducted into the Hall of Fame, I’m sure that quite a few writers might have shared some of the same feelings that I had tiptoeing around the Giants’ locker room. When those Hall of Fame votes were submitted this year, Bonds was receiving a little just due.

I don’t have a problem with the writers keeping Bonds and Roger Clemens out of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on their first run through the voting process. That statement has been made. Steroid use will not be tolerated.

Now, though, it’s time to forgive.

My fear is that the voting decision will go beyond the steroid issue. We’re human, and we want to see good things come to the nice guys or gals of our sporting world. Bonds probably isn’t on that list.

Bonds is, however, the greatest home-run hitter to play the game.

People share different opinions on whether those who used performance-enhancing drugs should be recognized for their accomplishments. Since our suspicions have come long after the suspected use, many players who used such drugs will escape scrutiny. One way or another, the fact remains that it was an accepted practice by those who ran baseball for years.

That means the managers, general managers and owners knew what was going on,    and they did nothing.

I would like to see this ugly chapter in our sports history get behind us, and getting back to business as usual would be a healing first step. Bonds, Clemens and cyclist Lance Armstrong, for that matter, have been punished beyond belief for their transgressions. Recognize their greatness and document their failures so we don’t follow a similar path in the future.

The Hall of Fame, after all, is a museum, which is supposed to store and exhibit artifacts that will preserve history.

History, as we well know, can be messy. We would have a lot fewer museums if they were filled only with happy memories.

And I guess that brings us to Pete Rose. “Charlie Gamble” has been in baseball “timeout” for years. Last time I checked, he had more hits than anyone living or dead.

His transgressions never are going to be right. That isn’t going to change.

With all that in mind, hasn’t the suffering gone on long enough? It’s not just Rose’s suffering. It’s ours.

Sure, the Hall of Fame is a great honor for those who are inducted. It might be the highlight of their life. But let’s look at the bigger picture.

We need an accurate portrayal of the sport’s history. We often entrust sportswriters to present that history.

That means putting our personal feelings aside.

Bonds might not have a lot of writers as friends, but next season, he belongs in Cooperstown.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at or 379-5632.

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