Bonds market is down

Times Staff Writer

Barry Bonds is in a slump.

He’s unsigned after leaving the Giants last season. Allegations of steroid use and perjury still hang over his head.

And now this.

The 43-year-old home-run king with the diamond earring and signature sneer was recently demoted from his high-profile front-lobby perch at the local wax museum. Workers removed the head from the bulky torso and carted him in pieces downstairs to join the other sport figures.

Bad boy Bonds is now history, replaced by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.


“No one’s been in this lobby longer than Barry,” said Curtis Huber, curator of the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf. “But everyone has to move on eventually.”

Something is missing in this baseball-crazy town. Bonds appears to have been erased from the collective psyche. Little matter that he remains baseball’s all-time home-run king with 762 swats. The titanic left fielder is an almost forgotten figure -- barely mentioned on talk radio or in sports-bar banter.

At AT&T; Park, where he wowed fans with his prodigious power and graceful swing-for-the-fences form, Bonds has been quietly exorcised. Gone are the “Road to History” mural in center field and the personal home-run counter. All that’s left are a few sidewalk medallions and a small sign by the right-field bleachers marking Bonds’ record-breaking 756th homer.

There’s no bronze statue of Bonds -- even though there’s one of the mascot, Lou Seal.

Bonds won five Most Valuable Player awards while with the Giants and led the team to four playoff appearances, including the 2002 World Series. In 2001, he set the single-season home-run record at 73. But you wouldn’t know it inside the Giants Dugout store at the ballpark. Workers say the store sells only merchandise that is current.

And at sports stores citywide, there’s nary a Bonds jersey or bobble head to be found.

Chris Ball, manager of the Ballpark Gallery, a shop that sells sport memorabilia near the stadium, said the city eventually will come to terms with Bonds. “But for now,” he said, “it’s out of sight, out of mind.”

To be sure, Bonds had his share of baggage. In his last years, steroid rumors flying, he remained surly both on and off the field. He grandstanded home runs, barked at reporters and snarled at fan requests for his photo or autograph.

Last year, a U.S. District Court grand jury indicted Bonds on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice related to his alleged steroid use. This week, Bonds was charged in a new indictment that supersedes the previous one but includes no new allegations. Bonds’ court troubles are considered his third strike with many fans.

Eating lunch at MoMo’s, a Giants watering hole near AT&T; Park, Scott Manning called himself the embodiment of the fan split: “Some days, I think Bonds was great; others I say, ‘So long, you cheeky bastard.’ ”

But MoMo’s waiter Jack Bloom didn’t want to hear anyone criticize his baseball hero.

“This city will always love Barry,” he said. “To try to roll up the red carpet so fast, that’s just not right.”

Still, some say even the Giants’ owners aren’t mourning Bonds’ departure.

“They wiped that ballpark clean of his fingerprints as soon as he was gone. It’s almost like they were admitting guilt after the fact,” said Damon Bruce, host of the show “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR-AM and anchor of the station’s Giants post-game show.

Team officials say memorials are usually made after players retire. Said Larry Baer, the Giants’ chief operating officer: “There’s been no effort to erase Barry from the conversation in this town, not on the Giants’ part.”

But Bruce says most of his callers no longer even mention Bonds. “It was always a business relationship between Barry and this city,” he said. “The fans said, ‘We loved you while you hit home runs, but we always knew you were a creep. You served your purpose, now goodbye.’ ”

Jeff Pearlman, author of the book “Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an American Antihero,” called the disconnect fitting for an athlete who cared only about numbers.

“Nobody considers him a legend,” Pearlman said. “His is the most anticlimactic sports record of all time.”

Some say Bonds’ legacy amounts to a bit of bad Barry mojo. Deborah Gee, a feng shui expert who toured AT&T; Park in 1999, said there was a negative energy force around Bonds’ locker. She described it as “poison arrows of energy that translate into bad choices and misfortune.”

Now that dark force may have been passed on to the team’s new Barry: pitching ace Barry Zito, who boasts a $126-million contract but began the season 0-8 and has been relegated to the bullpen.

Coincidence? Gee doesn’t think so. “Some people might call it the Curse of Bonds, but in feng shui it’s predecessor chi, the bad energy left by previous occupants of a space,” she said. “That bad energy is still there.”

At the wax museum, Curtis Huber is amazed the Bonds figure carries such a likeness to the original -- since the athlete refused to have anything to do with its creation. Artists had to work from photographs. Bonds refused an invite to the unveiling.

Recently, though, he showed up to have his picture taken with his wax dummy. A staffer asked for his photo. “He made a face,” said manager Alexa Ahrens. “But he did it.”

If Bonds’ future remains uncertain, so does the wax Bonds’.

Huber might retire the statue still further -- to the storeroom, the final indignity where heads and hands are removed and put away in tiny cubicles.

But he hasn’t yet given up on a comeback.

“You never know,” Huber said. “In the world of wax statues, the more notoriety you have, the more popular you become.”