Barry Bonds Going (Jail)Yard?

In a federal indictment, just handed down, Barry Bonds has been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for denying that he knowingly took illegal steroids. Surprising? Not really. Revelatory? Perhaps not, but for the media mayhem that will inevitably unfold in the latest act of this beleaguered play.

You won’t hear much new, or different. Bonds will be torn apart, his records questioned, his career asterixed. He faces up to 30 years if convicted. But lest you miss this on the ESPN or CNN crawl: in all of Barry’s years in Major League Baseball, he’s never tested positive for steroids. And even this indictment fails to directly charge him with taking the drugs; the evidence that links Bonds to illegal drugs is a doping calendar seized from the home of his former trainer (who was just released from prison today).

Plenty of ballplayers have tested positive recently, some of them playing the very same season. San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman was suspended at the beginning of last season, and he made the Pro Bowl. And as the testing system has ramped up, dozens of minor and major league players have tested positive, and though they’ve all been fined and suspended, none have lost more than Bonds has.

It’s easy to see why he’s so vilified:

He’s surly in public, standoffish with the media, and is a selfish teammate. Yet the love/hate of Bonds falls disturbingly along racial lines (The SF Chronicle‘s Scott Ostler had a great piece on this a couple years ago). Would Bonds be as vilified as he is if he was white? I don’t think so.

I’ve got a different reason for supporting Bonds all these years though. Back in middle school, a teammate and buddy of mine, Lee Franklin, was diagnosed with leukemia. When he couldn’t find a donor, Bonds helped him out, first by testing to see if he was a match, and when he found out he wasn’t, by raising awareness nationally to try to find a donor. It’s much more difficult for African Americans to find bone marrow matches, and as much as Bonds tried, he couldn’t find one for Lee. Luckily the cancer went into recession, and Lee and Bonds stayed close. Lee went on to play second base at the University of Arizona, but had to leave when the cancer came back. Lee died a year ago. So when Bonds gets blasted and dragged through the coals in these next few days, keep in mind that performance enhancers didn’t help his hand-eye coordination, his swing, or the fact that he tried to give Lee a fighting chance.

—Andre Sternberg


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.