Few figures in Pittsburgh sports history are as polarizing as Barry Bonds.
Penguins’ fans still begrudge Jaromir Jagr’s 2001 exit and 2011 non-return.
And Ernie Stautner, for a time, rankled Steelers fans as few others have done since.
But Barry Bonds left the Pirates after their 1992 NLCS loss, and the team went on to endure 20 seasons of futility. Those weren’t all his fault, but try telling that to most Bucco fans, especially after his legacy became synonymous with performance-enhancing drugs.
On Friday, the Pirates decided to invite Bonds, former manager Jim Leyland and retired shortstop Jack Wilson back to PNC Park to present last season’s awards.
Reaction, mostly against, is swift and visceral.
But in the Post-Gazette’s photo archive, the images of Bonds as a young draft pick nearly 29 years ago bring different reactions. As a rising star for the Pirates, he seems almost like a different Barry Bonds.
His mercurial attitude is evident — note the helmet flip after a called third strike — but so is his charm, joshing with Willie Stargell in the dugout in May 1987.
Will Pittsburgh fans forgive and welcome him back on Opening Day? We shall see.
UPDATED: Here’s Brady McCullough’s take on the reaction to his return.