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Murph: Bonds to the Wall of Fame; So when’s the statue?



The Giants made a little news this week by announcing that Barry Bonds will have a plaque unveiled in his honor on the team’s “Wall of Fame” outside of AT&T Park before the July 8 game against Miami.

Many thoughts rush to mind, among them: What took so long? Do you, the fan, even pay attention to the Wall of Fame? Do you, the fan, even know what the criteria is for the Wall of Fame? For example, maybe you dug Bobby Estelella’s gun show biceps — does that make him eligible for the Wall of Fame?

And most important: How long before the Giants address the bronze elephant in the room and make a call on a Barry Bonds statue?

We’ll try to sort through the answers.

First, the Giants actually have a criteria for the Wall of Fame, which is located along the King Street side of AT&T Park. They say you must spend nine seasons as a Giant — not eight, not ten; nine! — or have spent five years here with at least one All-Star bid, to take care of the Jeff Kents and Jason Schmidts of the world.

Bonds? He spent 15 years as a Giant, and made 12 All-Star games as a Giant. He also hit 586 home runs as a Giant. Oh, and he’s the best player any of us have ever seen. (By “us”, I mean those of us unlucky enough to not have seen Willie Mays.)

So. Why did it take until 2017 for Barry Bonds to join a Wall that has already inducted the likes of Atlee Hammaker, Gary Lavelle, Jeff Brantley and Marvin Benard?

No disrespect to your Atlees, your Marvins, et cetera.

Well, I mean, there is a little disrespect there, of course, but what do you want for a free Jock Blog, veal cutlets?

The Bonds/Giants ownership relationship is so complicated, it makes the federal tax code look like a coloring book. There’s the performance-enhancing drug issue that clouds everything. There’s the Giants-didn’t-sign-him-after-2007 thing. There’s the “Barry personality” thing. There’s the “He’s not in Cooperstown” thing.

It’s complicated.

Except it shouldn’t be. The ‘Wall of Fame’ plaque deal should have been done in the middle of his career, preferrably holding the ceremony while a team was intentionally walking him.

But now that the Giants and Bonds formalized in the spring an agreement to hire him as an advisor, it’s almost as if it took paperwork to make it real. Like a treaty that ends a war, signed on parchment paper and all that.

Then, The Statue Question.

Before we address it, we should note that the rise of the statue in modern American sports is a new, and to some, odd phenomenon. Prior to 2000, there were precious few statues of ballplayers. Honus Wagner got one in Pittsburgh in the 1950s. Stan Musial got one in St. Louis in the 1960s. But as politics have become more polarizing and divisive — when was the last statue of a U.S. president unveiled to bi-partisan cheers? — we’ve turned to bronzing our ballplayers, not our government or military.

Example: Since 2000, the Giants have bronzed Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Orlando Cepeda. Since 2010, the Orioles have bronzed Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver. Hell, the Twins have cast Kent Hrbek in immortality.

The Giants always have an out with Bonds, implying that only Hall of Fame Giants can get their 7-foot hunk of artwork. The problem with that is, Bonds hit 762 home runs. And Kent Hrbek has a statue in Minnesota, after all.

Larry Baer is a master at imagery and optics, and history and honors. He is finding this dance a little more entangled than others, but the Wall of Fame plaque is a sign that the ice is breaking on things like a retired jersey or a big ol’ Bonds statue placed . . . . where? On the port walk overlooking McCovey Cove? In front of the BALCO offices in Burlingame?

In the meantime, see y’all at the Wall of Fame.