Person of the Week: Barry Bonds

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Giant Barry Bonds

It was a week in which horror was both commonplace and elusive. Bombs exploded all over Southeast Asia; 189 died in an explosion Bali, and six were killed and 144 more injured in another terrorist act in the Philippines. No one has been charged in either case. The Washington gunman continues to snipe away; he's such a shadowy figure that even the few eyewitnesses to his murders have been so completely unable to reach any kind of consensus about he looks like that police would not release a sketch. The culprits in all these acts wreak havoc only to vanish.

So we decided this week to look more closely at something that's in plain view: the World Series. More specifically, Barry Bonds, who in the world of baseball is so well known, and so highly regarded, that the question as the Series begins is not so much "Will the Angels (or Giants) win?" as it is "Will the Angels pitch to Barry Bonds?" The San Francisco Giants outfielder, by far the best hitter in the game, is a kind of black hole, a gravitational force that warps everything around him, and all the talk of the baseball world this week centered on whether the Angels would simply give Bonds a free pass to first base rather than risk that he'd do even greater damage with his bat. Commanding that kind of respect is rare indeed, and for his pivotal role in the California Fall Classic, Barry Bonds is our Person of the Week.

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Near the end of a brilliant career, at age 38 Bonds is widely regarded as the best hitter in the game today — perhaps the best ever. He is also a riddle wrapped in a cocoon of handlers and protected by a bulky "Barry Bonds" elbow pad. He is famously disliked, by sportswriters, certainly (Rick Reilly, for one, wrote an unkind, and unfair, piece about Bonds in Sports Illustrated last year), and by at least some of his teammates. One in Pittsburgh, where he played his first seven years, famously said he would "rather lose without Barry than win with him." The charges: He's aloof, selfish, not concerned about meshing with the team. On the other hand, why does he have to be? Why should likability be a required attribute for Barry Bonds any more than, say, your accountant has to be liked by his co-workers? "I only have three words to say on the baseball field," Bonds told the New York Times Magazine earlier this year. "I got it."

That he does. Baseball, like accounting, is all about the numbers, and Bonds has the kind of inflated stats that usually cause Eliot Spitzer to convene a grand jury. Last season the Giants left fielder hit a record 73 home runs; this year, he led Major Leagues in batting average. Most amazingly were the number of times pitchers declined to throw to him at all; he walked nearly 200 times, including 68 intentional walks, a complete admission of defeat where the pitcher drops even the pretense of throwing something Bonds might be able to hit. Those walk numbers are the highest in the history of the game.

What sets Bond apart from the rest is his mastery of the act of hitting a baseball. No player in any sport is so completely in control as Bonds is when he steps into the batter's box. He reaches base nearly six out of every ten times at the plate, astonishing for a sport where three out of ten makes you a star. That's what makes Bonds a compelling and newsworthy figure; a quality that speaks of clarity and of sureness in a time when both are in short demand.

World Series NotesTwo of the biggest stars of the postseason, the Rally Monkey and Thunder Stick, have found their places online. includes a bio, t-shirts and notes concerning Rally Monkey etiquette. And to get your own Thunder Sticks —perhaps the kids need a little coaxing out of bed in the morning — a simple search on eBay will do it. Or you can wait for prices to lower after everyone gets really sick of them — like in 10 days.

Yep, those corny mayoral wagers are back in 2003. If the Giants win the World Series, Anaheim mayor Tom Daly promises to host a Bay Area family for a weekend ("Wow, mom, can we really go visit the city whose team just broke my heart?!") AND wear an orange and black fedora. San Francisco mayor Willie Brown promises to host an Anaheim family and wear a Gene Autry-style cowboy hat.