09/05/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
IN THE MINDS OF MOST BASEBALL fans, the noisome strike that has idled the game has also raised troubling questions—such as, whose side to take in a war of words among millionaires. Apparently the players too are facing nettlesome quandaries—such as, what to do when the paychecks stop. Lesser lights may still be wondering, but the San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds, one of the game's brightest stars and, with a $43 million, six-year contract, one of the richest, knew exactly what the situation called for. Only three days after the strike had begun, Bonds, 30, was in court asking for a one-third cut in his spousal and child-support payments. A San Mateo County judge went along—then asked for the superstar's autograph.
Bonds's adventures in litigation began last May when he and his wife, Sun, 30, separated after six years of marriage and two children, Nikolai, 4, and Shikari, 3. Judge George Taylor ordered Bonds to pay his wife $30,000 a month in support. Then came the strike. On Aug. 15, Taylor, an enthusiastic fan whose chambers contain pictures of Babe Ruth and other gods of the baseball pantheon, reduced Bonds's support payments to $20,000, including mortgage payments on the couple's $2.4 million Atherton, Calif., estate, where Sun and the children are living.
Afterward, Sun wasn't talking, but her lawyer, Lawrence Stotter, was waxing volcanic. "This is the kind of thing Nicole Simpson was involved in," he declared, with perhaps a hint of hyperbole. "You've got these super-heroes that everybody kowtows to, and the wife's needs don't get any attention." Particularly galling, apparently, was Stotter's understanding that Bonds is a millionaire several times over who receives more than $22,000 a month in endorsement and interest income. Nor was he amused by Judge Taylor's interest in Bonds's autograph. He said he planned to ask Taylor to disqualify himself and have another judge review the case. Instead the judge responded with a straightforward apology, offering his "sincerest regrets" for requesting the signature. "In retrospect," he said, "it was the wrong thing to do, and I simply won't make excuses."