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Bonds sets single-season home run record
Barry Bonds' career statistics
Bonds lets his numbers do the talking
By Bob Carter
Special to ESPN.com
"I could probably do a lot of things if I could just smile at everybody and wave. That's just not me. That's just not me," says Barry Bonds on ESPN Classic's SportsCentury series.
Barry Bonds had a season for the ages in 2001. Not only did he break Mark McGwire's mark with his 73 homers, he also removed Babe Ruth from two lines in the record book with his .863 slugging percentage and his 177 walks.
But even before Bonds turned 2001 into something special, the race to Cooperstown, to almost-certain first-ballot induction, was already won. He had earned a future spot in baseball's Hall of Fame with three National League MVP awards and eight Gold Gloves in the 1990s.
Jim Brock, his coach at Arizona State, said most of Bonds' college teammates had no time for him. "I don't think he ever figured out what to do to get people to like him," Brock said.
By both blood and osmosis, Bonds bursts with the DNA of inherited greatness. His father, Bobby, was an exceptional player in his own right. Willie Mays is his godfather. Reggie Jackson is a distant cousin. Some astonishing skills were passed along, but -- unfortunately -- so was some surliness and hostility.
While few doubt his ability or deny him his swagger, many decry Bonds' manner: his jogs to first on ground balls, his stationary stance while home-run balls shoot over his head in left and into the bleachers, his complaining.
Bonds, often seen as the prototype for sports arrogance, has fought the demands of celebrity throughout a major league career that began in Pittsburgh in 1986. "Why can't people just enjoy the show?" he wondered in 1993, his first year with the Giants. "And then let the entertainer go home and get his rest, so he can put on another show?"
As a baseball performer, Bonds has had few peers. The left-handed hitter and thrower was considered nearly a five-tool player in his youth: He could hit for average and power, run and field well; only his arm was considered average, which is why he was moved from centerfield to leftfield.
Bonds is the only player in history to amass 500 home runs and 500 steals (his father had 332 and 461). In 2004, at the age of 40, he became the third player to reach 700 homers, broke the record for most career walks (he has 2,311, including 607 intentional), and was the first player to have an on-base percentage of more than .600 in a season (.609).
Former teammate Matt Williams said Bonds was "probably more comfortable" hitting with runners on base and late in games than with the bases empty. "The more you see," Williams said, "you just accept that he's a special player."
Weighing 228 pounds, about 40 more than in his rookie season, the 6-foot-2 Bonds, who never had hit 50 homers before, exploded in 2001. He swatted career homer No. 500 in April. He hit 26 homers in his team's first 50 games and had 39 at the All-Star break. When he belted No. 60 in the Giants' 141st game, he became the fastest in history to reach that plateau.
Bonds tied McGwire's record of 70 with four games left and the next night, against the Los Angeles Dodgers' Chan Ho Park, Bonds belted two homers to give him 72. He capped off the season with a homer in the final game.
With a .515 on-base percentage, he was the first major leaguer to be above .500 since Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle in 1957.
For years, Bonds has beaten opponents with his hitting, speed and defense. He has batted .300 11 times and stolen 30 or more bases nine times. He had a lifetime batting average of .300 with 708 homers, 506 steals, 1,853 RBI, an on-base percentage of .442, and a slugging mark of .611 through 2005. Only he and his father have been 30/30 men (30 homers, 30 steals) five times.
"Nobody is better than Barry," said former teammate Shawon Dunston. "He can pick up a team, carry it on his back and not put it down."
However, as his ability and strength have increased over his playing career, there has been suspicion that he obtained his bigger body by using illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Following the 2004 season, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Bonds previously told a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Lab Company (BALCO) that he had used a clear substance and cream that contained steroids. Bonds claimed he didn't know what he was using and has denied he has ever taken steroids.
Barry was born on July 24, 1964, in Riverside, Calif., to Bobby and Pat Bonds. He grew up around baseball, around Candlestick Park in San Francisco where his father played for the Giants, practicing in the outfield while the major leaguers warmed up for games.
He hit .404 in three seasons at Serra High School in San Mateo, and was a prep All-American as a senior when he batted .467.
A second-round draft pick in 1982, Bonds rejected the Giants' offer of $70,000 -- he wanted $75,000 -- and went to Arizona State. Hitting .347 over three seasons with 45 homers and 175 RBI, he was an all-Pacific-10 selection each year.
Pittsburgh chose him sixth overall in the 1985 draft, and the next year he was in the Pirates' outfield after playing only 115 minor league games.
Bonds, reputedly a player with immense potential, delivered modest production at the start. He batted .223 with 16 homers as a rookie and averaged just .256 and 21 homers over his first four years.
He broke out fast in the first 10 weeks of 1990, stealing 17 bases and batting .522 with runners in scoring position. He finished with a .301 average, 33 homers, 114 RBI, a career-high 52 steals, his first Gold Glove and his first MVP award as Pittsburgh won the National League East.
"Barry's the only individual I've met who can turn it on and turn it off," teammate R.J. Reynolds said that year. "One day he will put up numbers no one can believe."
The numbers mounted as Bonds' consistency grew. He batted .292 and .311 the next two seasons with RBI counts of 116 and 103. He won his second MVP in 1992 when his .624 slugging percentage was the best in the majors.
The big numbers, though, disappeared in the postseason, where he batted .167, .148 and .261 in 1990-91-92 with three RBI in 20 games. The Pirates lost each of those series, twice agonizingly in seven games to Atlanta. "Call me Mr. July," Bonds said.
He became Mr. Big Bucks in December 1992, signing a free-agent deal with the Giants for $43.75 million over six years, at the time baseball's richest contract.
Changing uniforms and coming back home didn't alter his play. In his first Giants season, Bonds batted .336 with 46 homers and 123 RBI and became the first player to lead the NL in both slugging percentage (.677) and on-base average (.458) since Philadelphia's Mike Schmidt in 1981. It all added up to a third MVP award.
"Bonds belongs in a higher league," said then New York Mets manager Jeff Torborg.
Bonds never let on that earning anyone's affection mattered. His attitude: Judge me by my accomplishments. The San Francisco years brought plenty of them. His batting average dropped just once below .291, when he hit .262 in 1999. Slowed by injury that year, he still hit 34 homers and drove in 83 runs in 102 games. Even in the strike-shortened season of 1994, Bonds produced in a big way: 37 homers and 81 RBI in 112 games.
In 1996, he became the second player to get 40 homers and 40 steals in a season, joining Jose Canseco. His play and that of the younger Ken Griffey Jr. spurred a decade-long debate over which outfielder was the game's best player.
At 36, Bonds enhanced the argument by hitting 49 homers in 2000, leading the Giants to the NL West title. Although he had another poor postseason, he exploded in 2001 with one of the greatest seasons ever when he became the first player to earn a fourth MVP.
In 2002, Bonds won his fifth MVP award. At 38, he became the oldest player to win the NL batting title, hitting a career-high .370. His 198 walks shattered the record of 177 he set a year earlier. His .582 on-base percentage broke Ted Williams' mark of .553, set in 1941.
That October, Bonds get rid of his reputation as a player who didn't produce in the postseason as he batted .356 with eight homers. He reached his first World Series and put on a show, hitting four homers (including joining Hank Bauer as the only players to homer in their first three Series games) and batting .471 with a record 13 walks. However, the Angels wouldn't allow him to exorcise his biggest demon: Bonds still ended the season on a loser as Anaheim beat the Giants in seven games in the first all-wildcard World Series.
In 2003, Bonds batted .341 with 148 walks. He hit 45 homers but had only 90 RBI. Although the Giants ran away with the NL West, they lost in the NLDS to the Marlins, with Bonds batting just .222. He became the first player to win three consecutive MVPs as he was voted the award for the sixth time.
In late 2003 Bonds appeared before a federal grand jury investigating the distribution of illegal performance-enhancing drugs at BALCO. In February 2004, his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was indicted - with three other men - for distributing illicit steroids to elite athletes.
The controversy didn't stop Bonds from having another amazing season in 2004. He broke his season records for on-base percentage (.609) and walks (232, including 120 intentional) as he won his second batting title by hitting .362. He also slugged 45 homers and knocked in 101 runs (his 12th 100 RBI season, breaking Hank Aaron's NL record) in winning his fourth consecutive MVP award, raising his total to seven.
In 2005, Bonds' quest to pass Aaron's lifetime home-run record of 755 was put on hold - not by opposing pitchers, but by his own body. He underwent two surgeries on his right knee to remove damaged cartilage and then a third operation was needed to clean out an infection on the knee. He didn't get into the lineup until September and played in only 14 games. He hit five homers, leaving him 47 behind Aaron.
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