He’s the most hated man in baseball history.
And if you read Jeff Pearlman’s meticulously researched book, “Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero,” you’ll quickly understand why. Arrogant, self-absorbed, moody, and delusional all seem to accurately describe the controversial home run king, and help explain why many are now delighting in the idea of Bonds being forced to listen to his ex-mistress describe his shrunken testicles in his ongoing perjury trial.
But Ottawa carpenter Sam Holman, who helped introduce maple bats to Major League Baseball, knows a different Barry Bonds. Reportedly introduced to Holman’s bats by Joe Carter, the reviled ex-slugger began using maple bats in 1999 and employed Canadian lumber to smash the single-season and all-time home run records. To express his appreciation for Holman’s work, Bonds flew from San Francisco to Ottawa to visit Holman prior to spring training in 2002.
“Bonds was uncommonly appreciative of Holman’s handiwork,” writes Pearlman. “During the entire 73-home run season (2001), Bonds broke only one bat, and in that instance the ball still left the yard. So when he came to Ottawa to publicly thank Holman, it was done with heartfelt sincerity. Bonds toured the mill where the maple was cut, signed autographs until his hand ached, and held a press conference at the Mayflower Pub. His speech brought tears to Holman’s eyes.”
At the press conference, a gracious Bonds gave Holman credit for much of his success.
“Sam wants to give me credit because I’m out there playing baseball, but it takes two to tango,” said Bonds. “You know, it’s my record, but it’s still (Holman’s) bat.”
It was hard for the 150 people in attendance to believe that Bonds was the jerk that he was often portrayed to be, writes Pearlman.
“How could anyone this kind, this loyal to a humble craftsman like Sam Holman be a bad person?” writes Pearlman. “Surely, the press was wrong about Bonds.”
Unfortunately, Holman is one of a select few who have witnessed this side of Bonds. The Ottawa bat maker was on the receiving end of Bonds’s charitable side again in the spring of 2007, when Bonds reportedly gave him $40,000 to keep his business afloat when it was experiencing financial woes. Today, four years later with Bonds in the midst of an embarrassing court case, Holman remains loyal to his former No. 1 customer.
“I, like all of you, are following the baseball/government events in San Francisco this early spring,” wrote Holman in a blog entry on the SAM bat website on March 24. “The Barry Bonds that the media presents is not the man I know. Our relationship is a professional one that has resulted in storied satisfaction and lifelong friendship for both of us. The work of Barry’s achievements will stand the test of time as all records beyond Babe Ruth will.”
Did you know?
According to Pearlman, the Toronto Blue Jays offered Dave Stieb and Manny Lee to the Pirates for Bonds in 1989. After thinking long and hard about the deal, Pirates GM Larry Doughty turned it down. The Pirates believed that Stieb, at 31, was on the downside of his career and considered Lee a “mediocre talent.”