Steroids or no, Hank thinks highly of Bonds
NEW YORK -- Hank Aaron's admiration for Barry Bonds won't be tarnished if it's proven that the San Francisco Giants slugger used steroids, baseball's all-time home run king told the New York Post in a story for Wednesday's editions.
If Barry Bonds homers in Houston to tie Willie Mays on the career list, the Astros don't want to see any on-field celebration at Minute Maid Park.
The Giants and Astros finish a three-game series tonight. If Bonds hits his 660th career homer, Mays said he'll be the first person to greet his godson at home plate.
"I'll be right there," Mays was quoted as saying in the Houston Chronicle. "Hopefully, the other teams don't get mad because if I was a pitcher and he hits a home run off me, I don't want to see a guy come out of the dugout to congratulate him. It's just natural. But that's what I'm going to do, hopefully.
"It has nothing to do with baseball; it's all about the man."
The thought of that theatric miffed Astros catcher Brad Ausmus, who expressed respect for Mays and Bonds but said a hug at home crossed the line.
"I don't think that's necessary," Ausmus said. "Do it away from the dirt of home plate. Show some respect for the opposition and the fact that we're trying to win a baseball game."
Aaron said he would "let the public judge for themselves," whether Bonds' records should be tainted.
"I'm just hoping and praying nothing comes up," Aaron told the newspaper. "I admire Barry Bonds. Steroids or no steroids, he would have had a Hall of Fame career."
Aaron, who set the major league record with his 715th home run 30 years ago Thursday, will be honored at the Braves' game that night.
Bonds is fourth on the career list with 659 home runs, one behind Willie Mays. After Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record, he went on to finish with 755 career homers.
"Barry Bonds has done everything -- hit home runs, steal bases, hit for average. He's practically carried his ballclub on his back," Aaron said.
If Aaron had to pick his favorite modern player, though, Bonds wouldn't be it.
"If you put all of today's best players in a room, my first choice would be Alex Rodriguez," Aaron told the newspaper. "He carries a little more weight in the locker room because everybody likes him, but Barry Bonds has been everything you want in a ballplayer."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press