When Barry Bonds' magic number finally came up, much of the joy outside his home park had long since disappeared, removed by the mystery man himself — so gifted on the field, so surly off it — blowing off those outside Barry's World, if only because he can.
"It's typical Barry in that he must remind people that he is Barry Bonds and we're not. I mean, he wants to play the game by his own rules," says Tom Verducci, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated.
All of which has helped turn Bonds into the poster boy for baseball's steroid era — smiling as he's showered with boos tied to the belief he cheated to break sports' most sacred record.
His steadfast denials seemingly belied by testimony in the BALCO drug scandal, best-selling books and a body that appeared to expand the same time as his home run production — from a career average of 32 home runs a year between 1986 to 1999, to 52 homers from 2000 to 2004, all after the age of 35.
"It's going to be thorough. It's going to be fair, and it's going to be independent," said former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell during a press conference on March 30, 2006.
Mitchell was appointed by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig last year to answer those questions — to investigate just how many major leaguers were "juicing" during the decade before baseball began cracking down on steroid use in 2005. His probe has been marked by little cooperation from players or its union.
Selig declined to comment on the Mitchell investigation.
But someone who evidently is talking worked at New York's Shea Stadium — a former Mets clubhouse attendant turned government informant.
"So now they actually have some new information, and they're obligated at some point to pass this on to Bud Selig, and he's obligated then to act on it," Verducci says.
Not unlike the obligation to honor an antihero for the ages — and, for so many, his singular, joyless journey into history.
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