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Here to Be Heard by Bonds

It begins when he takes his first step onto the Dodger Stadium outfield grass, leaving the infield and trotting toward the hot corner from hell.

“Bar-ry [bleeps], Bar-ry [bleeps].”

It continues when he reaches the worn patch of outfield grass ringed by the expectorated shells of sunflower seeds.

“BAL-CO, BAL-CO, BAL-CO.”

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He stares into the wide eyes of the left-field corner and pavilion crowds, and the crowds scream back.

“Ster-oids, ster-oids.”

He flexes his left arm, forming a biceps and a smirk, and they scream louder.

“Juice, juice, juice.”

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It continues like this for an entire half-inning, for nine half-innings, for a dozen years now, with an emotion as raw as it is resilient, with voices so filled with hatred one can almost feel the respect.

One of the greatest players in baseball history may be the most booed visiting player in Los Angeles sports history.

Except, of course, for those moments just before Barry Bonds actually swings his bat.

“Excuse me a second,” says Gilbert Chavez, a Whittier city employee sitting among the suddenly silent masses in the Dodger Stadium left-field pavilion Tuesday night. “I have to watch him hit.”

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It’s like throwing mud on the Mona Lisa. It’s like jeering a monument.

They might as well be chanting, “The Grand Canyon [bleeps], the Grand Canyon [bleeps].”

Did anybody ever sing like this to Michael Jordan?

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Joe Montana never heard such music, did he?

Yeah, and we all remember when hockey fans would mockingly chant, “Gretz-ky, Gretz-ky.” Didn’t they?

Amid the constant din of disgust Tuesday night during the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants, an usher shakes his head.

“Think about it,” he says. “They are chanting that Barry Bonds stinks. You can say a lot of things about Barry Bonds, but does he really stink?”

Of course not. But such is the beauty of one of sports’ coolest rivalries, in spawning one of its oddest couplings.

The Dodger faithful, who Giant officials say boo Bonds louder and longer than any other fans anywhere, don’t care about the numbers.

It’s about the colors.

“Ever since he became a Giant, I’ve loved ripping Barry Bonds more than I’ve loved sex!” shouts Eric Martinez, 22. “It’s the best thing about coming here!”

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It’s about the rumors.

“Hey Barry, you dropped a needle,” scream a couple of fans, again and again.

It’s about the low pants, the casual posture, the slow gait, the shrugs, a guy who had the nerve to step into this rivalry in 1993 and immediately own it without sweating it.

“There’s just so much stuff around him,” says Martinez.

And so much abuse heaped upon him.

“Hey Barry, I see you brought your Sid Bream arm,” shouts one fan with a memory.

“Steroids are slowing you down!” shout a dozen other fans.

When Bonds catches a ball to end an inning Tuesday, everyone boos. When he drops that ball a few seconds later while casually jogging with it toward the infield, they cheer as if he were Eric Gagne running in from the bullpen.

Says Dodger bullpen catcher Rob Flippo: “It’s like a lot of them aren’t even watching the game, they’re just here to yell at Bonds.”

Says David Delfin of El Monte, one of those jeering fans: “Yeah, well, that’s why we get these seats. This is fun.”

The chiding of Bonds is so insistent that even the Dodger Stadium organ riffs seem timed to include cursing chants.

“It’s amazing, they can be playing any song, and the fans can work in a way to sing, ‘Barry [bleeps],’ ” says Flippo, who sits in the middle of it.

The catcalls have become so constant, the Dodgers even notice them from the field.

“Oh yeah, that’s all they do is ride him,” says Dave Roberts. “It’s the one series where nobody else has to worry about being booed. He bears the brunt of everything.”

He bears it with a smile, turning to face the crowd between almost every batter.

He bears it with humor, flexing his arms and pumping his fists as the boos increase.

In the third inning Tuesday, he not only endured it, he promoted it, spreading his arms and lifting his hands as if encouraging the noise to grow.

One of the moodiest men in the game seems to be strangely at home in the hot corner from hell.

Perhaps because this is one place where he knows exactly where he stands.

“Everybody out here also knows what’s going on, even if we don’t say it,” says fan Chavez. “Everybody rides him, but everybody would love for him to throw us a ball. We say he stinks, but when he hits a home run, we’re like, ‘Ohhhhhh.’ ”

And when he comes to the plate?

“Everybody acts like they hate him, but what do they do when the Dodgers don’t let him hit?” asks Chavez.

Of course. They boo.

“Ten years from now, guaranteed, everyone out here will be telling their kids that they saw the great Barry Bonds play,” says Chavez.

And, boy, did he "[bleep].”

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Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.


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