Barry Bonds grinned and swayed, and if there was a drumbeat rising from a grand-jury room two miles from AT&T; Park on Wednesday afternoon, he probably wouldn’t have heard it over Bobby Brown wailing from his personal television set.
“My Prerogative,” the song was called. So Bonds stood on the eve of a possible federal indictment for perjury and tax evasion, seemingly undaunted by the investigation into his previous grand jury testimony in regard to steroid use or allegations he failed to pay taxes on memorabilia sales.
The grand jury’s term is expected to expire today, bringing speculation of the potential for indictment. Federal prosecutors could ask to have the grand jury’s term extended. Bonds’ best friend and former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, has been imprisoned since July 5 because he refused to testify, though his attorney told the Associated Press that Anderson would be released today.
While one of his teammates observed, “I’m sure he’ll be happy when tomorrow’s over,” Bonds refused to take questions about the case or its burden upon him.
Asked whether he was concerned he would be indicted, Bonds answered, “Is that why you guys are here? If you want to talk about baseball, we can. Otherwise, you need to go in that direction.”
He pointed across the clubhouse, quiet despite a ninth-inning, come-from-behind win by the San Francisco Giants against the Milwaukee Brewers.
When a similar question followed, Bonds turned to the team’s director of media relations, Blake Rhodes, and said, “All right, Blake. Let’s go.” Reporters were directed to leave Bonds’ area.
Through Rhodes, Giants owner Peter Magowan and General Manager Brian Sabean declined to be interviewed.
Bonds’ agent, Jeff Borris, said he did not know whether there would be an indictment, but insisted Bonds would play through the coming days and, perhaps, seasons, regardless of the grand jury’s findings.
Major League Baseball has not said whether it would attempt to suspend Bonds, should he be indicted. Commissioner Bud Selig, who four months ago ordered an investigation into players’ use of performance-enhancing drugs, said last week he would await the results of the federal investigation.
“I hate the fact that Barry has to have the weight of the world on his shoulders and have these off-field distractions,” Borris said. “But there’s a lot to be learned and respected by someone who can conduct himself like that.
“When he steps on the field, Barry’s about being the best player he can possibly be.”
Bonds will turn 42 on Monday. He has 721 career home runs, second to Hank Aaron’s 755.
“If his skill level remains the same, if he’s healthy, he’ll be in a big-league uniform,” Borris said. “Barry’s playing the game, playing baseball. He loves the game. That’s what’s pure. No one can take away his love for the game.”
Meanwhile, baseball by the San Francisco Bay sauntered through another midseason afternoon. The taut, white crowns of passing sailboats were visible above the brick wall in right field, fans craning to see whether that was, indeed, Bonds who might pinch-hit in the ninth inning.
Just after 3 p.m., the Giants down to their last three outs, Bonds climbed the stairs from the dugout to field level, stood in the on-deck circle and waved his bat.
The public-address announcer shrilly broadcasted his presence in the batter’s box and the crowd applauded and shouted his name, just another at-bat, on the eve of nothing more than yet another summer ballgame.
His name and image are all over the ballpark, from the left-field fence to the right-center field wall to the backs of the T-shirts worn by children, and symbolically in the rubber chickens that hang in foul ground down the right-field line.
Batting .246 with 13 home runs, 41 RBIs and 79 walks, Bonds began a rally with a full-count, soft single over three infielders bunched to his right. Replaced by pinch-runner Jose Vizcaino, Bonds walked from the field while sliding out of his arm padding.
Several minutes later, when Ray Durham singled home two runs and the Giants were 7-6 winners, Bonds climbed the railing and joined his celebrating teammates at home plate.
Of his single, Bonds shrugged and said, “I just saw it and hit it.”
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Top of the list
Barry Bonds holds one of sports’ most famous records and is 34 home runs from Hank Aaron’s career mark of 755 home runs. The single-season list:
*--* Player Team Year HR 1. Barry Bonds San Francisco 2001 73 2. Mark McGwire St. Louis 1998 70 3. Sammy Sosa Chicago Cubs 1998 66 4. Mark McGwire St. Louis 1999 65 5. Sammy Sosa Chicago Cubs 2001 64 6. Sammy Sosa Chicago Cubs 1999 63 7. Roger Maris N.Y. Yankees 1961 61 8. Babe Ruth N.Y. Yankees 1927 60 9. Babe Ruth N.Y. Yankees 1921 59 10. Jimmie Foxx Phila. Athletics 1932 58 10. Hank Greenberg Detroit 1938 58 10. Mark McGwire Oakland/St. Louis 1997 58
Source: Major League Baseball