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, including the throw he made on the final play of Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves, which kept 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. Sid 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 the news this morning from SportsIllustrated.com shed light on that fateful game-losing throw like never before, in the form of a quote from former Pirate Andy Van Slyke, the perennial Gold Glove center fielder who was standing to Bonds’ left when he threw wide and short of the plate to end the 1992 season for Pittsburgh and take the Braves to the World Series.
According to Sports Illustrated, “Van Slyke told MLB Network that on the Francisco Cabrera game-winning hit, he motioned to Barry Bonds to move in. Bonds responded by giving him the finger, and the ball ended up landing exactly where Van Slyke said to play.”
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.