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The kid who caught home run No. 714 off the bat of Barry Bonds a year ago scurried out of Oakland’s stadium with his valuable souvenir without bothering to see what Bonds might want to offer for it.

News photoBarry Bonds has had plenty of reasons to smile in 2007. He leads the National League with 11 homers.
AP PHOTO

Before he left, Tyler Snyder had just one thing to say:

“I hate that guy,” Snyder said.

The kid, of course, is not alone. When Bonds was on the verge of passing Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, he was booed in Milwaukee, mocked in Philadelphia and jeered in Houston.

And hate might be too nice of a word for the reaction he gets every time he sets foot in left field at Dodger Stadium.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise to see a new poll that basically confirms what other polls have shown in recent years. According to the latest survey, baseball fans in general believe Bonds took steroids, think he cheated the game and don’t want to see him break Henry Aaron’s record.

Walk into any ballpark outside the Bay Area and you’ll hear much the same thing. Away from AT&T Park, Bonds is viewed mostly as a pariah, someone who has tainted the game and made its most sacred statistics seem meaningless.

There’s little doubt now that he’ll pass Aaron, sometime next month at his current pace, and become the greatest home run hitter ever.

According to the ABC News/ESPN poll, three out of four baseball fans believe Bonds knowingly used steroids, despite his reported claims to a federal grand jury that he thought the “clear” and the “cream” were flaxseed oil. Fans as a whole also believe he’s a cheater. And 52 percent of them say they are rooting against him breaking Aaron’s record of 755 home runs (he now has 745), while just 37 percent say they are pulling for him to become the home run king.

There’s not much new there. Only one in three fans in an Associated Press poll last year said they wanted Bonds to break the record, and half said they had an unfavorable opinion of him.

What is new is that the latest poll suggests that black baseball fans are far more inclined to root for Bonds than white fans. While just 28 percent of whites say they want Bonds to break Aaron’s record, three out of four black fans are rooting for him to do it.

Now, I’m not a sociologist, so I can only guess at the reasons Bonds still has credibility among black fans while he has little among whites. A similar sort of division existed in polls taken a little more than a decade ago about the guilt or innocence of O.J. Simpson.

Don’t forget that Bonds has been known to use the race card himself, as he did last year when he blamed some of his problems on the fact he was chasing Ruth, a white legend.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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