Andy Van Slyke vs. Barry Bonds (1992 NLCS Nightmare Returns)

I’ll always hate Barry Bonds. Not because he broke the most hallowed record in sports – Hank Aaron’s career home run total – by taking steroids, and then told a grand jury he didn’t know he was on steroids.  Not because he left the Pirates. I’ll always hate Barry Bonds because he’s a liar and egomaniac. And because of his bad playoff performances with Pittsburgh. In 20 postseason games with the Pirates, Bonds had one home run and three RBI, and the Pirates lost each series he played in. Most memorable is the ball that dropped in front of Bonds on the final play of Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves, scoring the Braves’ Sid Bream and keeping the Pirates from reaching their first World Series since 1979.

It was the bottom of the ninth. Unknown pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera was at bat for the Braves. I was 12 years old and watching the game with my parents in Bethel Park, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Bream, the long-time Pirate who had signed with Atlanta before the 1992 season, came around to score on Cabrera’s base hit, which fell right in front of Bonds, whose weak throw couldn’t get the slow-footed Bream at home.

It was the last time Bonds would ever wear a Pittsburgh uniform. It was also the last time the Pirates finished a season with a winning record. Yes, it’s been 19 years, an American professional sports record.

But recent quotes from an old teammate of Bonds shed light on that fateful game-losing throw like never before. The words are from Pirates great Andy Van Slyke, the perennial Gold Glove center fielder who was standing to Bonds’ left when Bonds threw wide and short of the plate to end the 1992 season for Pittsburgh and take the Braves to the World Series.

According to Van Slyke, Bonds responded to fielding advice just before the game-winning hit by giving his teammate the middle finger.

“He gave me the international peace sign,” Van Slyke told MLB Network. Van Slyke, at that time the winner of five consecutive Gold Gloves, had seen Bonds situated too deep in left field and yelled at him, “Move in! Move in!”

“I didn’t want to lose the game on a base hit,” Van Slyke explained to the Oakland Press in another interview. “I was totally devastated.”

Here is the actual footage, which still gives me nightmares. It is clear that if Bonds had made the adjustment Van Slyke suggested (moving just a few steps to his left), Bream would’ve been out by a few steps.


9 thoughts on “Andy Van Slyke vs. Barry Bonds (1992 NLCS Nightmare Returns)

  1. Does anyone have video of this – Van Slyke motioning to Bonds? Sure, I hate Bonds as much as the next guy but Van Slyke’s story comes 20 years after the fact. Why did he wait so long?

    1. Maybe it was just the first time a major outlet had interviewed him the game extensively. Either way, I’m curious what Bonds will say about this, or his conviction, if he ever talks to the press again.

  2. Van Slyke waited so long because there is a very old and established rule in baseball that you don’t make public criticisms against a player who is still in the game.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that AVS would have loved nothing more than to call out Bond’s stupidity mere seconds after the Pirates lost that game. But AVS has always been a class player.

    Now if the tables were turned Bonds would have been likely happy to toss Van Slyke under the bus…..

  3. I should have said: That a teammate doesn’t make public criticisms against another player still in the game….

  4. I don’t think Bonds ever acknowledged Van Slyke’s comment. I don’t think Andy is the type of guy to just make this up. It made sense to move in with the weak hitting Cabrera up. Another big “what if” that keeps me up at night is wondering what would have happened if Leyland replaced Belinda at some point with Bob Walk who was warming up in the pen. Oh well…

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