In our “Legacy of a Jerk” podcast, we told a story about how Roberto Clemente‘s earthly reputation was burnished forever by his saintly death. It wasn’t that Clemente was a jerk — far from it — but the story emphasized how a certain kind of death can smooth out the rougher parts of a person’s reputation.
So I read with interest this fantastic ESPN article by Kevin Guilfoile about the bat that Clemente used to get his 3,000th hit. Guilfoile writes about the time he spent as an intern working for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Clemente’s old team, and his interactions with the Pirates’ rising star Barry Bonds. If we ever make a sequel to “Legacy of a Jerk,” we should probably talk about Bonds and to what degree his damaged reputation — as a reputed long-time steroid user — is a product of his personality:
Barry wasn’t the kind of jerk who was nice to people only when he needed something from them. As far as I could tell, Barry was pretty much an ass to everybody all the time. Instead of berating me directly or just ignoring me, Barry would sometimes talk about me like I wasn’t there. Sometimes he would tell Bobby Bonilla, who had the locker next to him, that I was lying to them and these autographs weren’t for fans and that I was just selling these pictures to professional dealers, that I was another no-talent white man exploiting black men who possessed real ability.