Customer Reviews: Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero
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If he's not more careful, Jeff Pearlman's going to get a reputation as the Kitty Kelley of baseball. First, the John Rocker interview in "Sports Illustrated". Next, "The Bad Guys Won!" -- a book about the hard-drinkin', coke-snortin' '86 Mets. Now, Barry Bonds is revealed in all his misanthropic, beef 'roid injectin' misery.

I'm not sure if "Love Me, Hate Me" began life as an impartial look at how Bonds' stellar on-field accomplishments redeemed his tumultuous personal life. Somehow, I doubt it. I suspect it was always intended to be a sarcastic look at how one of the most physically talented ballplayers of the last quarter-century managed to trash his public reputation and make exactly zero friends along the way.

Pearlman knows his baseball, and chooses his comparisons with great precision. His writing is crisp and lively, his point never in doubt. For example, he describes Bonds' infamous late-season and playoff slumps by comparison to late 1970s utility infielders -- the kind of references that only a guy in his mid 30s who grew up with shoeboxes full of Topps baseball cards could come up with: Bonds is described, during his slumps, as being: "... as useful to baseball as an autographed Otto Velez jersey". And: "In April and May, he was Willie Mays; in September, he was Tom Veryzer". This book is probably going to drive the average sabermetrician crazy.

In order to get away with a book like this, the author has to do two things right. He has to get his game accounts perfect. How many baseball bios have been trashed by a lack of research into game details? Ken Kaiser's biography, Andre Dawson's biography, Jose Canseco's love letter to steroids, to name three other baseball books I've reviewed. A look at RetroSheet, however, shows that Pearlman gets it right. He did his research, he watched the key games. That should be a given for any book, but it's not, so he gets points.

The other thing the author has to get right is to check his sources. How do we know that the stories in this book aren't bogus? When you interview 500 people, many of whom knew Bonds only in passing, you're likely to get some suspect information, or anecdotes altered by conscious or unconscious bias. Of course, story after story about how poorly Bonds treated teammates and neighbors is balanced by other stories about his generosity and heart, so not every interviewee is out to get Bonds. The chapter notes also detail hundreds of primary sources -- mostly contemporary newspaper game accounts or the musings of sports columnists (many of which, such as the paeans to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998, look painfully naive in retrospect).

"Love Me, Hate Me" is hardly neutral or impartial. However, it has the ring of authenticity, and is written in the same breezy, in-your-face style that made "The Bad Guys Won!" a blast. It's unfortunate that, as of today, there are about 5700 other books that are outselling this one on Amazon. Love this book or hate this book, you should not avoid this book.
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on July 6, 2006
This book is ironically titled because the real Barry Bonds, who you feel like they know after finishing Jeff Pearlman's thrilling biography, is a man one can neither love nor hate. His excellence is tarnished by his personality which is so obviously confused that, despite the brutality with which he treats others, renders one incapable of hating him. Barry Bonds is yet another example of self-esteem having an inverse relationship with success. Had Bonds been a satisfied young man, he would have never expended every particle of his physical and mental energy conquering a craft which would one day make him a national celebrity and a fabulously wealthy person. Bonds's infinitesimal self-doubt caused him to train like, and with, Jerry Rice and even cry on the rare occasion he had to miss a game, but it also alienated almost everyone he came into contact with. He is a petty, abrasive, and irritable man who is entirely devoid of social skills. This reality makes one pity him which is not the reaction one expects to have towards a finger pointing, whining mega-millionaire. When you look at the numbers over the course of his career, it is readily apparent that Bonds really is the Michael Jordan of baseball, and that most of us don't realize it is directly related to the horrendous way with which he interacts with peers, the press, the fans, and your average citizen. I am a fairly hardened person, but I was shocked to read the passages documenting this icon's habit of berating small children who ask for his autograph. He seems to insult and slight others for absolutely no reason whatsoever. As for steroids and BALCO, Pearlman does not hedge on the issue which is quite appropriate considering the evidence. The author is certain that the allegations against Bonds are true, and the stigma he is now under is doubly tragic because the reality is that the Giant would have gone to the Hall of Fame without an ounce of illegal substance. After the scandal, it's now a crap shoot as to whether or not he'll ever make it to Cooperstown. This is a cautionary tale.
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on August 26, 2006
The author certainly did his homework by interviewing over 500 people who have had some interaction with Bonds over his life in order to write this book. What was grat about this book was that it wasn't written by Bonds or from the perspective of the author it was more other peoples true experiences about Bonds spun into a book. This was a fresh look at this guy and not written to drag him down or to glorify him, you are left to make your own opinion. I liked it.
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on April 19, 2006
I bought this book three days and could not put it down. I always thought Bonds was a mysterious cat, but now I feel like I've got a much better understanding of him. The stories in this book had me laughing and crying, especially dating back to his early years with Van Slyke and Doug Drabek with the Pirates. I have nothing bad to say. A great read.
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on April 24, 2006
I was a baseball writer who covered the minor leagues for many years, and I used to love the great baseball writers of my era. I am largely unfamiliar with this author, but his book is beautifully written, with an impressive attention to detail. I didn't expect a great deal from this book (I reviewed it for my hometown paper), but it's a real gem. It took me inside the world of major league baseball and also inside the mind of a superstar I never truly understood.

I was mostly enamored by Barry Bonds' Pittsburgh years, where he developed into the man he is today. His relations with Jim Leyland (whom I remember from his time with the Tigers in spring training) and Andy Van Slyke (a vastly underrated player of his day) are unqiue and enlightening, as are Bonds' takes on race, class and status. I don't believe any book is a must-read, but this one is pretty dang close.
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on October 30, 2008
Once, 2 years before he quit playing, Bonds made the statement that all the strain of making 16 million a year for playing a game was just too much. I imagine Barry did have difficulty following in the paths of earlier family members who also played the sport. Bonds never diunderstood, like a few that play today, is that you cannot treat people like insignificants and expect them to like you. A book written by Gary Sheffield documents almost everything the author writes about Bonds. Barry is the kind of player, according to Perleman, that when something good happens--like hitting a home run- the world is just barely tolerable. Now, if a call strike occurs on Bonds, this only cements the belief. Bonds insists he did not take steroids, but the entire world (well almost) knows he did. In his contempt, Barry insisted that everything be his way or no way at all. There are just so many books written about this guy, but give credit. Forging this terrible attitude that Bonds must have, in part at least, was his baseball coach at Arizona State. He permitted Barry to be treated better than anyone, hence, the "I am perfect" mold began to form. Bonds did have a "few" bad moments in his career, as Perleman notes in his story of the World Series of the Angels and Giants in 2002 when Bonds literally falls on his face trying to field an outfield hit and ensuing error cost his team the game. What I beleive most will get out of this book is that Bonds had contempt for everyone from Babe Ruth to the worst rookie in pro ball. Bonds would have you believe he did not care about anything while playing the game or driving his car. He seems to possess disdain for a sport for racism ( but which paid him so much) as he when he referernced that a "black man" could not "get away" with the special previlegdes that Roger Clemens had with the Astros. But like all that he was I believe most of this was put on. What Barry Bonds was good at was tremendous eye hand coordination and the ability to pick what the opposing pitching was going to throw. In balls going 90-95mph or knowing a curve is coming beforehand trumps everything for a hitter. In one story, Perleman mentions how he teaches HOF manager Dusty Baker how well he 'reads a pitcher, predicting 6 consecutive pitches while Baker watches in amazement. Reading this book might remind you of a few guys who came before Barry: Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby just to name two. Tremendous talent with terrible attitudes. This book is much more than about baseball. Highly recommended because Perleman does such an excellent job of following a career which indeed must have been very difficult. guyairey
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on July 1, 2016
This is the best baseball book I've read yet. Way better than "Ball Four" or "Juiced" or "The Rocket That Fell to Earth" or "My Favorite Summer 1956". The many things I liked about this book:

- Excellent background on the Bonds family in general
- Excellent background on Bobby Bonds' life and how it impacted Barry
- Extensive research, gives perspectives from so many different people
- Fills in Barry's entire life, from infancy to superstardom
- Contextualizes Barry's entrance into the world of PED's beautifully
- Enough stats to satisfy the typical baseball fan's tastes
- Great balance between Barry's personal life and his professional life
- Very solid writing
- Very well organized
- Great sense of humor. I actually laughed out loud several times -- very rare for a book.

Jeff Pearlman really hit this one out of the park! Very highly recommended!
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on April 21, 2006
My parents bought me Love Me, Hate Me for my recent birthday and I began reading it immediately. I didn't have much interest in Bonds (I don't care for him much) but the stuff uncovered here is really good. i was a psych major at Ohio State, and Bonds seems sort of crazy. But I found myself trying to think like he does. For a biography, that's a good sign.
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on April 30, 2006
Pearlman does a great job of gathering information and presenting it an orderly and organized fashion. He does his best to make the biography a fair view of Bonds but it seems lopsided simply because Barry is such a jerk. Overall, it is a great read and has a ton of insight into Barry's life and the behind closed door locker room scenes.
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on April 24, 2012
"I'd rather lose without him, than win with him." This is a quote from one of Bonds' ex-teammates from the Pirates. I guess this goes to show within every organization there's always people who clearly rub co-workers the wrong way but are kept around because they can get results. It's frustrating but we don't live in a perfect world. Girls pick the wrong guy, the wrong guy gets promoted and the button falls off your favorite pair of pants. The best part of the book was the chapter when Barry started asking Davis how many years he's been in the league. "Yeah, and you've been off the disable list for about 6 of them." After this comment Shawn Dunston walks over to Davis' locker and grabs his 1990 World Series ring and says back to Bonds, "Hey, how many of these do you got?"

A quote from Bonds after McGwire and Sosa's home run record-breaking 1998 season and the attention from the press that they got.

"I'm tired of fighting it....I'm just going to start and use some hard-core stuff and hope it doesn't hurt my body," says Bonds to Griffey and two athletic apparel guys after McGwire and Sosa's 1998 home run-breaking season.
The best part of the book is when Dusty Baker takes Russ Ortiz out of the seventh inning in game 6 of 2002 World Series against the Angels with a 5-0 and gives him the game ball as he's coming out. That was a major mistake and the Angels got really pissed and came back and won the game 6-5 and ended up winning game 7 after that.
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