Barry Bonds to be enshrined in Hall of Fame — no, not that one

Barry Bonds will join his former manager Jim Leyland as a member of the Pirates' Hall of Fame. (Richard Mackson /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
Barry Bonds will join his former manager Jim Leyland as a member of the Pirates' Hall of Fame. (Richard Mackson /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

It's not Cooperstown.

But Barry Bonds is a newly elected Hall of Famer.

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced Tuesday that they're inducting Bonds into the team's Hall of Fame. He'll join a class that includes his former manager Jim Leyland and 1970s All-Star catcher Manny Sanguillén. The team will hold a ceremony at PNC Park on Aug. 24.

“What can you say?" Bonds said, per the Pirates announcement. "I’m kind of at a loss for words. Being able to tell my kids, ‘Your dad has gotten into the Pirates Hall of Fame,’ that was really nice. It’s going to be awesome going back to where it all started."

Bonds, of course, can't tell his kids that he's a National Baseball Hall of Famer. Despite his status as the most feared slugger of his generation and arguably all time, Bonds is not welcome in Cooperstown. His prominent association with baseball's steroids era of the 1990s and early 2000s has locked him out.

Bonds' credentials are unassailable. He's a seven-time MVP, 14-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glover and two-time batting champ. He's also baseball's single-season (73) and career (762) home run king. That is, if you're willing to acknowledge the home runs he hit during said steroids era.

Many of baseball's Hall of Fame voters are not. Bonds fell short for a 10th time in his 10th and final season of eligibility via the 2022 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. His 66% vote tally that year fell well short of the 75% threshold for enshrinement. He's still eligible via committee votes, but nothing suggests that baseball's gatekeepers are ready to welcome Bonds and other faces of the steroids era into the Hall of Fame fold.

The Pirates, however, are eager to acknowledge Bonds' accomplishments with the franchise. He joined the Pirates as a rookie in 1986 and spent his first seven MLB seasons in Pittsburgh. He made two All-Star teams and won his first two MVPs with the Pirates before joining the San Francisco Giants in 1993. There, he finished his career as a perennial MVP contender and five-time winner over the course of 15 seasons.

Bonds' seasons in Pittsburgh aren't associated with the steroids era. Playing with a noticeably smaller frame than in San Francisco, Bonds slashed .275/.380/.503 while averaging 25 home runs, 79 RBI and 36 stolen bases per season. He finished his career in Pittsburgh with 33, 25 and 34 home runs, respectively in his last three seasons — lofty totals but nothing like what was to come in San Francisco.

In 15 seasons with the Giants, Bonds matched or exceeded his season-high home run total in Pittsburgh (34) 11 times (46, 37, 42, 40, 37, 34, 49, 73, 46, 45, 45). He slashed .312/.477/.666 while averaging 39 home runs and 96 RBI per season. Despite repeatedly leading the league in walks (11 times) and on-base percentage (eight times) in San Francisco, he experienced a precipitous decline in stolen bases (17.5 per season).

This honor from the Pirates is about Bonds' early MLB Days. And whether he's in the Baseball Hall of Fame apparently won't matter much to Bonds on Aug. 24. He sounds genuinely moved to be part of Pittsburgh's class.

“Leyland and I are going to have to try and control our emotions, because I think we may do more crying that day than actually speaking," Bonds said. "But it’s still going to be great."