Ethics Dunces: The San Francisco Giants

To be fair, how was anyone to know that Barry Bonds was cheating?

We knew this was coming.

The San Francisco Giants will retire Barry Bonds’ number 25 in a ceremony before tomorrow’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bonds will become the 12th Giants player to have his number retired, following Bill Terry (3), Mell Ott (4), Carl Hubbell (11), Monte Irvin (20), Orlando Cepeda (30), Juan Marichal (27), Willie Mays (24), Willie McCovey (44) and Gaylord Perry (36). Christy Mathewson and John McGraw are regarded as having their numbers retired, but they played before uniforms had numbers.

None of the other eleven, before Bonds, cheated to reach the heights they achieved in the game, nor did any of the others corrupt the sport, its players, its statistics and records. The Giants knew Bonds was illicitly and illegally using steroids, of course, as did most Giants fans, but they were perfectly happy to enable his conduct and accept his lies because his drug-enhanced talent, which was already formidable, won games. It would have been, one theory goes, hypocritical for the Giants not to honor Bonds. After all, they were complicit and supportive as he amassed Hall of Fame numbers while using methods that disqualified him for the Hall of Fame, if not the San Francisco team.

The retired number, like Bonds’ entire selfish, corrosive, despicable career will now stand for the propositions that the ends justify the means, and the cheating works. That was what Barry was always counting on, and he pulled it off. Now a San Francisco institution is officially endorsing Bonds’ values.


No wonder that city’s culture is so screwed up.

You can read the voluminous Ethics Alarms commentary on Bonds, who when I compile the long-promised list of Worst Ethics Corrupters will be a prominent member (right below Bill Clinton) , here.

23 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: The San Francisco Giants

  1. Hypothetical: Could numbers be retired out of disgrace (I.e. no one should have to wear x number anymore)?

    I was trying to think of a good example if “x”

    Eureka! Pete Rose!


    Retired in 2016, after being unofficially retired after he was banned.

    Verdict: unofficial retirement in disgrace; official retirement with much applause.

    Baseball should adopt a rule that if you get banned, your number will be retired with an X through it (or a K, because it’s baseball) to suggest no one deserves to be associated with you.


  2. Not quite:
    Gaylord Perry was a notorious spitball pitcher – one who boasted about it openly in “Me and the Spitter.”

    He won over 300 games, using that illegal pitch for a significant portion of his career (he arguably had not even been BORN when the last legal spitball pitcher, Burleigh Grimes, ended his career).

    His number is among those retired by the Giants.

    • Gaylord popped into my mind as well. His brother Jim lived on the same pitch, didn’t he? I wonder if Kenny Perry used to put anything on his golf balls. I think he’s a nephew of the Perry boys? Or the son of Jim? Interesting to see what Jack says about Gaylord having his number up there. Maybe doctoring balls is just part of the game, like stealing signs and scratching out the batter’s box lines?

      • I seriously do suspect that current MLB pitchers are doctoring the balls they throw. Or, that they are doing it brazenly, and are getting a pass (at least some of them). So…batters bulking-up are a “fair” counter to pitchers doctoring-up? Pitchers Clemens-ing-up are entitled to extend their flame-throwing careers? We might be on to something here…

        And I agree with Inquiring Mind: Bonds won’t be the first cheater who successfully cheated his way to number-retirement. G. Perry is just the one we can cite without more extensive research.

      • I talk about Gaylord in several posts: use the search engine. I still agree with this passage from one of them:

        “It is funny—there was very little made of pitcher Gaylord Perry’s occasional use of the illegal spitball when he was being considered for the Hall of Fame. Everyone knew that Perry used his reputation for resorting to the pitch as psychological warfare (it is not cheating to make a player worry that you might be cheating), and that his 300+ wins were the result of his superb command of his legal pitches, not the spitball. Perry’s admission to the Hall has only begun to be challenged as Bonds defenders have began searching for evidence that the Hall of Fame “welcomed cheaters with open arms.” When Perry was caught throwing spitballs, he was thrown out of the game. And for cultural reasons, perhaps related to the fact that there was a period in baseball when some pitchers were allowed to throw spitballs and others were not, pitchers like Whitey Ford, Don Sutton and Perry sneaking in an occasional spitball was regarded more as evidence of guile than corruption. I might not have voted for Perry based on his spitball use, but the fact that a few pitchers made the Hall despite occasionally throwing an illegal pitch hardly paves the way for admitted steroid cheats.”

        • Jack,

          It still does not get around the fact that Perry wrote a book called “Me and the Spitter” eight years before his first ejection for using the pitch, and at one point in the book, claimed he’d first used it in 1964.

          There is a bit of Rationalization 22 there, with a touch of 51, a teensy bit of the Underwood Maneuver, and a LOT of 61B.

          • 1. I said that I probably wouldn’t have voted for Perry, so I’m not rationalizing his cheating at all.
            2. #22 requires arguing that something should be excused because it isn’t the worst thing. I’m not arguing that.
            3. I am arguing that compared to Bond’s conduct, Perry’s was trivial. Which it was. Bond’s conduct was criminal as well as unethical. Bonds lied about it. Perry was open about his cheating. Bonds corrupted the entire game. Perry did not inspire other players to cheat.

            4. I don’t see the 61B argument at ALL. Who’s arguing that Perry is being targeted because of who he was? He’s being targeted because he was the only post-ban pitcher routinely referred to as a spit-ball specialist admitted to the Hall. Lot’s of pitchers claimed to throw the pitch on occasion, like Don Sutton. Only Perry claimed to do so routinely. Would throwing a spitter once, or twice, be worth banning a player from the Hall? I don’t think so. If his record relied on cheating, though, its a different question.

            • On 61B: If we take Perry at his word in his 1974 book, he was using the pitch since 1964. You have roughly a decade of cheating before the book came out.

              And he was boasting of it – flagrantly flouting the rules. He wrote a book that was published where he detailed his cheating.

              MLB did nothing.

              Furthermore, it’s impossible to tell how many of his 300+ career wins came from using the spitter, just as it’s impossible to tell how many of Barry Bonds’s homers came from his use of steroids. But we know for sure they cheated.

              The cheating still taints the entire career.

    • Gaylord was ejected from a game for possession of a doctored ball in 1982. He was 43 years old.

      Perry had faced approximately 20,000 batters prior to his ejection. He threw perhaps 80,000 pitches. He touched various parts of his uniform before each pitch, to give the impression that he was “loading up.” Total touches, perhaps 400,000 in his career.

      He was subjected to repeated on-field inspections, in full view of fans and cameras. His hat was removed, his shirt tail was pulled out, he was more or less frisked.

      One year, the American League decided to outlaw him personally. It declared that any ball that acted like a spitball would be called a ball, even in complete absence of supporting evidence. Gaylord responded by inviting supervising umpires to watch him throw a bullpen session. The result of the session was that the league advised its umpires that Gaylord had a legal pitch that looked just like a good spitball, so the rule should not be applied to him.

      Gaylord was the quintessential clubhouse lawyer, changed teams constantly, so that nearly every team in baseball employed one of his former managers, coaches, or catchers.

      Gaylord was finally ejected from a game for possession of a doctored ball in 1982. He was 43 years old.

      • As Gaylord got older and closer to the end, he resorted to the spitball more often and blatantly. I saw the game he was ejected from. On a pitch to Red Sox outfielder Reid Nichols, the ball virtully splashed into the glove. Nichols jumped away from the plate like it was a snake, and pointed to the ball like Donald Sutherland at the end of “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.” The umpire ejected Perry without even frisking him.

    • Ditto what you said at 6:19, d_d. I’d like to see the Stros win, and yet, I am suspicious of the moves they’re making. Let’s see…Correa, Altuve, Springer, McCullers, and McCann all hurt, on the DL. Oh sure, bodies wear out and scrappy athletes take risks and eventually injure themselves. Front offices look for ways to avoid paying huge bills, too. While jacking ticket prices ever higher every year. I’m supposed to see an Astros game at Minute Maid Park next week. I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to see on the field any of the players I have already paid to see. If only I had “dynamic apathy” to counter “dynamic pricing” (of tickets).

      I feel a little like Prinicpal Rooney in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:” “Something’s going on, g_ddammit! And I’m gonna find out what it is.”

      • Well, if you’re going to see them against the Rockies, they just announced that Altuve won’t be back during this homestand. I don’t think he’s going to be out too long, but this is his first ever stint on the DL.
        Correa is back tonight which is great. McCullers is expected to be out until September.
        Springer is supposed to only be out the minimum, so about the 16th for him.
        Not sure about McCann, although I just read he’s expected back in September as well.
        And I just saw that Devinski has gone on the DL.

        They are really kind of banged up — it is rather amazing that they’ve not gone on an extended funk on the field.

          • On a more positive note, I enjoyed today’s 6th-inning comeback by the Rhode Island Little Leaguers, achieving a walk-off 6-5 win after entering their last at-bat trailing to the New Hampshire team, 5-0. Full disclosure: I enjoyed the end-of-game, last-at-bat drama, but honestly was hoping that NH would win.

            • My heart always aches for the losing team (and their parents and supporters) in those LL tourney games.

              But, NOT when I think the losers are (or were) cheating. I saw a vintage Little League World Series Championship Game on some TV channel (Longhorn Network?) last weekend, while away from home in another part of Texas – maybe, 1980 or so, that far back. GAD! How in the hell did the LL EVER let those Taiwan teams into the tournament?! Those Taiwan players were all several inches taller to a man than any opponents’ players – and one needed only glance at their faces to see that most of them were NOT 12 and 13 years old. Those were young men, not boys, those Chinese islanders. Seeing that vintage game reminded me of why I avoided watching the LL World Series for many years. F-ing cheaters!

  3. On the topic of sports and ethics, would it be fair to come to the conclusion that NASCAR is inherently unethical, because it had a certain mindset from the beginning going back to bootlegging. Since the onset of the organization, teams have tried gaming the system by finding loopholes. Sometimes teams didn’t break the letter of the rules, but surely went against the spirit. For an example, famed mechanic Smokey Yunick saw that the rules stated a gas tank must be X amount of gallons, but it said nothing about the fuel line. So instead of using a typical half inch line, he used a two inch line and made it loop a bit, so he got a few extra gallons. That’s just one of his highjinks, many more to that. Of course now they made much more strict and all, but still teams always find a way.

    • That’s almost a given, Al. Stewart-Haas screwed Danika Patrick over royally. The one time they gave her a competitive car, she won the pole, and without bad advice from her spotter would have finished third.

  4. Since sports talk is so much a part of this thread: I had a fellow virtual non-golfer (like me) point out how the media are literally stalking Tiger Woods. The stalkers seem to be in denial that most of the time, Tiger’s performance, while unquestionably professional caliber and usually competitive, is also usually no more promising that he’ll “win a big one” than is the play of oh, about three dozen other current golfers who are regularly on the PGA tour. That kind of media behavior is reason to be suspicious of a kind of racism.

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