Barry Bonds verdict moves baseball's steroid scandal into the past, MLB historian says
John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, was not sure what to make of the jury’s split verdict in the Barry Bonds perjury trial, but he believes it moves the steroids scandal farther into the past.
“The era is largely behind us,” he said. “Baseball is emerging from this period – this long period – when it had a cloud over it, a cloud of suspicion, a cloud of fan resentment.”
Baseball, he said, is resilient. “We complain about it, but baseball survives it. We love it,” he said.
Thorn, the author of “Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game,” said he was a 10-year-old in Queens when the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. He did not think he would survive it. But he did. And so did baseball.
“Now, I see Walter O’Malley was the Johnny Appleseed of baseball,” he said. “He took baseball where it had to go. It had to go to the West Coast.”
Bonds was convicted Wednesday of obstruction of justice for being evasive and impeding a federal grand jury investigation into illegal steroid distribution.
The verdict against the former San Francisco Giants slugger capped a nearly seven-year probe that focused on Bonds’ denials under oath about knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.
The jury deadlocked on three counts of perjury, which were dismissed.
Thorn called the steroids era “a sad period” and said, “That’s not good for the players, that’s not good for baseball, that’s not good for Cooperstown.”
“I can say that baseball will benefit from closure on this matter,” he added, though he noted there are still relapses. “Just when we think the last shoe has dropped, there are other shoes.”
If Bonds, who holds the record for most career home runs, and other players whose reputations were tarnished by their association with performance-enhancing drugs are excluded from the Hall of Fame, he said, “that will be a sad and harsh verdict on their place in baseball history.”
He said it is too early to assess the meaning of the Bonds verdict.
“The defense is going to move for a reversal of the verdict. I can’t speculate on its chance,” he said, but he added, “I don’t believe that today’s verdict is a transformative event in fan sentiment. It will tend to convince those who were already opposed to Bonds getting into the Hall of Fame.”
Photo: Barry Bonds, left, and his attorney Allen Ruby face the media Wednesday outside a federal court building in San Francisco. Credit: George Nikitin / Associated Press