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April '05: The Baseball Issue

The Wolfman in Barry Bonds
by Tim Denevi

Joltin Joe Has Left and Gone Away
by Tod Goldberg

Sinker in the Hole
by Bob Arter

Barrie Blonz
by Randall Brown

Course Catalog for Jose Canseco's Baseball Academy
by Christopher Monks

news: Ann Arbor Fundraiser Event!

I met Barry Bonds once, in person, in contrast to the countless times I’ve watched him, written about him, looked up his statistics, and heard stories about his high school and college days from over twenty years ago.

I met him just last season. He didn’t say a word to me. It was in the San Francisco Giants clubhouse, which, with its wood-paneled lockers, bathroom attendant, and rows of slippers, dress shoes, and shimmering metal cleats, felt more like a posh hotel lobby than a haven for men about to enter a field of grass and mud, emerging afterward with bloody knees and elbows, with eye-black smeared into the rims of their nostrils and strands of chewing tobacco wedged between their teeth.

The clubhouse even smelled immaculate: like mint. A plasma TV looped ESPN footage that occasionally rendered the actions of those present into the realm of High Definition.

My dad and I were with my dad’s friend, a former minor-league pitcher who throws batting practice for Barry and who I like to quote in my articles on the Giants: a counter to the negative media perception of Bonds as the proverbial baby-eating steroid ogre.

Everyone in the clubhouse gets one locker, no matter if they earn the major-league minimum of three hundred thousand dollars or upwards of fifteen million. Everyone except Barry. He gets three: a whole corner to himself. He has a Barca Lounger and a nutritionist. He has his own personal TV. When my dad and I entered, Bonds was lounging back, leather footrest propped out, watching this TV. The rest of his teammates were scattered, a foursome of Latin ballplayers laughing and playing cards in their spaceship-slick undershirts, an old relief pitcher, looking overweight without the glamour of his jersey, sitting head down at his locker.

My dad’s friend, who’d pulled considerable strings to gain our entry into such exclusive grounds, turned to us quickly and whispered, “I’m not gonna introduce you to Barry. Okay?”

It was about an hour before the game. I stepped lightly, afraid of disturbing some immortal balance between the baseball gods and the hallowed surroundings, worried I could jinx the effort of my favorite sports team, which at the time was fighting for its collective life in a late-summer pennant race. Sports fans, like the devoutly religious, tend to believe that they can somehow manipulate fortunes beyond their control; hence the labyrinthal workings of superstition.

We passed the overweight relief pitcher, and I nodded; a grim smile spread to the corners of his mouth. We detoured around the Latin card players, who continued laughing without a glance in our direction. We had progressed to Barry’s corner. My dad’s friend stopped. Bonds looked up from his TV, weary. His heavy eyelids, like the rest of his body, seemed to be weighted down by an aggregation of muscle.

“What are you watching?” my Dad’s friend said. The words felt parsed, hard chosen. I slunk back, startled by this non-televised vision of Bonds.

Barry’s one-word response seemed to flit in and out of the decorous surroundings. It was a moment before I understood what he’d answered: “The Wolfman.”

That was it. My dad, standing closer to Barry at the edge of the Barca Lounger, seemed ready to comment back. He had been a minor leaguer himself and was not bound by the same sense of awe. But seeing the slugger’s eyes trace somnolent and puffy back to the TV, he said nothing. We left.

I kept thinking—walking out through the dugout and into the grandstand, where autograph seekers parted huffily in the aisle—I kept thinking, What?! Barry Bonds watches clips of a hirsute horror villain before games! Does this somehow gird him for the upcoming at-bats, tickling a predatory response that allows him to become a wolfman of destruction against the cowering pitchers of the National League West?

I vowed to search “Wolfman” on IMDB (which I have since done; a 1979 movie of that name came up, followed by the user comment: “worst acting in film history”). I imagined what a cross between Barry and an evil-fanged wolf-beast might look like (a Doberman with giant forearms, I settled on).

Finally, sitting down the third baseline with my old man, both of us sipping foam from our plastic-cupped beer, I had to ask his take on the whole thing.

“What the hell are you talking about?” he said.

“You know, the movie Barry was watching.” I made my fingers into curled claws. “Wolfman.”

My dad shook his head as if he were still my little league baseball coach, as if I’d once again missed the bunt or hit-and-run sign. “Look up at the scoreboard, meat.”

“Huh?” The Giants were playing Philadelphia that night. Starting for the Phillies was a left-handed pitcher named Randy Wolf. “No way,” I said.

“Barry watches clips of every starting pitcher,” my dad said. “Jesus. I think you’re the one who told me—it was in one of your columns.” He laughed then laughed again. “You thought Barry Bonds, an hour before game time, was watching a horror movie on his private TV set?”

“It seems reasonable,” I said.

He sipped his beer, smirking. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t seem reasonable at all.”


After the game—after Barry hit a gorgeous line drive over the right-field wall and into the bay water beyond; after three or four sequels to my original beer—I began to think that it was entirely reasonable. Why not? I thought. The media, the fans, even some of his fellow players all liked to make Barry Bonds into a demon of greatness: enjoying the process of his ascent, hoping he might fall farther than any fall previous.

Why wouldn’t Barry also enthrall himself with his own personal monsters? And what better choice than a monster who deep down was nothing but a wild, hairy dog of a man?

Leaving the stadium whipped by the nighttime bay gusts of San Francisco, I imagined a glorious chain of celebrity monsters, each one horrible only in relation to those linked to it; I smiled thinking that somewhere on that chain I—the fanatic fan, hero worshipper, beer guzzler—served a purpose, too.

Tim Denevi lives in Honolulu with his wife, a geologist. He has recently published fiction in Denver Syntax, and his baseball column, The Dock of the Bay, appears regularly on