The Best On Bonds

Updated: July 24, 2007, 2:54 PM ET
ESPN.com

As Barry Bonds celebrates his 43rd birthday, ESPN.com looks back over the past three years at some of the best stories about Bonds' pursuit of Hank Aaron's all-time home run record.

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Barry Bonds

July 9, 2007

Gene Wojciechowski: Reporters get "peace" of Bonds
He tried, I'll give him that much. At least, I think he tried. That's because you can never tell with Barry Bonds whether you're getting the truth or getting played.

Bonds wore his three-piece, investment banker gray suit, flipped the power switch on his smile, and although not exactly charming, he was civil, cooperative and, at times, even poignant during Monday's nearly hour-long All-Star Game media session. Don't get me wrong -- there wasn't a group hug at the end, but there were several post-interview handshakes with reporters. And though I can't prove it, I swear Bonds had a man-crush on a middle-aged, Gannett columnist who got the San Francisco Giants star to talk about finding inner peace.

But I'm not buying it.
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Barry Bonds

May 29, 2007

Wayne Drehs: How safe is Barry?
Best-selling author Peter Abrahams describes the character with ease -- a man in his late-50s, a throwback of sorts, frustrated by a world of escalating gas prices, scandalous reality television and too many me-first, you-last personalities.

He would have grown up loving baseball, worshiping Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and others. He'd despise what the game has become. He'd look at San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds and cringe at the thought of this sullen, allegedly chemically enhanced antihero smirking his way to one of the most prestigious records in all of sports.

So he'd want to do something about it. Major League Baseball? The Mitchell Investigation? A San Francisco grand jury? An ultra-revealing, best-selling book? They might not be able to stand in the way of the slugger's becoming baseball's all-time home run king. But he could.
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Barry Bonds

May 29, 2007

Eric Adelson: Defending Bonds
I want Barry Bonds to break the home run record.

I want Bonds to break the record because Jason Giambi gets paid $120 million to be a home run hitter, won Comeback Player of the Year after apologizing for something or other, said steroids didn't really help him, promised to discuss the topic in full "one day," and yet receives nothing at all like the venom flung at Bonds.

I want Bonds to break the record because Kenny Rogers had a strange substance on his hand during the World Series, and he was not disciplined, nor was he even chastised. Rogers allegedly did something to gain an advantage, even though it was illegal, and in his case, well, that's baseball.
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Barry Bonds

May 6, 2007

Jayson Stark: America's conflicted about Bonds
We keep trying to envision the scene when the Greatest Record in Sports goes tumbling down.

We keep trying to envision all the emotions Barry Bonds will unleash as he makes that historic tour of the bases.

We knew this moment would be complicated. Awkward. Uncomfortable. But until we saw the results of this ESPN/ABC News poll, we hadn't fully digested just how complicated, how awkward, how uncomfortable.
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Barry Bonds

Oct. 5, 2006

Gene Wojciechowski: Why Bonds is safe at home
There's a reason, a depressingly good one, why Barry Bonds can talk smugly of dipping his just-surgically repaired left elbow into the free-agent waters this offseason. It's the same reason he can continue his tainted march toward Henry Aaron's legitimate all-time home run record. And it's the reason he might still be wearing a San Francisco Giants uniform when the team reports to Scottsdale next spring.

The reason's name is Greg Anderson.

Anderson is Bonds' longtime friend, former personal trainer, convicted drug distributor and money launderer and, according to federal prosecutors, the man whose testimony could probably wipe that smug look off No. 25's face.
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Barry Bonds

July 20, 2006

Wright Thompson: Bonds indictment story is talk of town
Barry Bonds sat in front of his locker, watching The Tyra Banks Show on his personal television. He tapped his foot along to Bobby Brown, smiling as the singer crooned: Everybody's talking all this stuff about me. Why don't they just let me live?

It was a first cousin of normal. People laughed uneasily, willing to play along with the charade for the moment, as if this was just another ballplayer, enjoying some bad television.

Then someone asked about the indictment. Ah, the indictment. Back to reality. Bonds scowled a bit.

"Is that why you guys are here?" he asked.
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Barry Bonds

May 28, 2006

Tim Kurkjian: Bonds' tumultuous journey to 715
Barry Bonds' historic journey began in 1986 when he was a slender, speedy, 185-pound leadoff hitter for the Pirates. Twenty years later, a bulky slugger who runs slowly on painful knees has passed the game's greatest and most legendary player, Babe Ruth, on the all-time home run list.

It has been a tumultuous voyage, especially lately. Bonds has been the center of the steroid controversy in baseball, the primary focus of the book, "Game of Shadows," and now, sources say, is being investigated by the federal government for possible perjury charges.

Passing Ruth into second place all time should be a cause for celebration, but Major League Baseball isn't recognizing it, Bonds gets booed wherever he goes on the road, and every once in a while a player takes a shot at him: Phillies pitcher Cory Lidle was the latest, saying he doesn't want to see Bonds break records. Hank Aaron dealt with racial hatred and ignorance on his road to 715. Bonds is dealing with some of that and much more, but unlike Aaron, he brought much of it on himself.
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Barry Bonds

May 12, 2006

Patrick Hruby: 616 (no asterisk required)
Heads turned. The ball bid the park adieu. With a single, violent swing of his bat, Barry Bonds made baseball history Saturday in Oakland, climbing one home run closer to the immortal Willie Mays. Six hundred sixteen home runs. It's a mind-numbing number, a body of work to rival Tupac's posthumous releases. Congratulations are in order.

Wait. Hold up. You say Bonds actually has 714 career home runs?

Er, no. Good one. But no. Sure, if you want to get all technical, there's no arguing that Bonds has forcefully redirected 714 pitches into home run territory over his 21 major-league seasons. Yet according to the ziggurat of evidence compiled in the book "Game of Shadows," Bonds also ingested a Mexican farmacia's worth of performance-enhancing drugs during his peak slugging period, making some of those dingers less authentic than country crooner Kenny Rogers' reconstructed face.
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Barry Bonds

April 11, 2006

Chuck Klosterman: The breaking point
At some point in the immediate to near future, someone is going to throw Barry Bonds a strike when he should be seeing a ball, and he will rake it with extreme prejudice. His propulsive, compact swing will rock the sphere toward the roof of the troposphere; it will fall to earth roughly 440 feet from where Bonds is standing, and he will react as if he is: (a) unimpressed or (b) vaguely annoyed.

He will then jog 360 feet, and some people will cheer, and some people will have mixed feelings, and some people will have mixed feelings while they cheer. And that is because this particular raking will be the 715th home run of Bonds' career, meaning he will have surpassed the home run production of George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

This is a problem.
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Barry Bonds

April 3, 2006

Jim Caple: How do you really feel about Barry Bonds?
So what do you think of Barry Bonds now?

Are you rooting for him to launch fastballs on majestic parabolas into McCovey Cove? Are you hoping he leads the Giants to their first world championship since moving to San Francisco? Do you want him to pass Babe Ruth this month, close in on Hank Aaron in September and go on to become baseball's all-time home run king?

Or do you hope his knee breaks down and he spends the season on the disabled list again? Do you hope no one ever throws a strike anywhere near his bat?
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Barry Bonds

March 14, 2006

Jeff Pearlman: For Bonds, great wasn't good enough
The concentration of sports and entertainment superstars living in the 800-acre Windermere, Fla., enclave known as Isleworth can make an afternoon stroll down one of its sidewalks seem like a red-carpet rehearsal. Shaquille O'Neal, Tiger Woods, Wesley Snipes -- they all flock to this gated community of multimillion-dollar homes. Few spreads match the splendor of the 13,000-square-foot mansion owned by Ken Griffey Jr. Decorated in serene linens and creams, the place features floors of marbled Macedonian stone and a miniature movie theater. Video games line the walls of an entertainment center; outside, a large in-ground swimming pool begs for balmy days.

Griffey's friendship with Barry Bonds dates back to 1987, when Griffey was a 17-year-old Mariners prospect playing in the Arizona Instructional League. Bonds, a young Pirate at the time, was living near Phoenix, and he took the future star under his wing.
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Barry Bonds

March 7, 2006

Buster Olney: Bonds could have been king
July 25, 2010. Barry Bonds sits near a podium in Cooperstown, N.Y. Willie Mays walks slowly to a podium, and the applause is loud, fading slowly, as the crowd waits to hear his words.

"I'm here to talk about the past," Mays says, "and to introduce this young man sitting over here to my right."

The fans roar. Bonds smiles, looking up.

"This is what you all know about Barry Bonds. Winner of three Most Valuable Player Awards. Eight-time Gold Glove Award winner. Led the National League in RBI once, in 1993. Led the National League in home runs once, in 1993.

"But let me tell you something you may not know about Barry Bonds. He made choices. The right choices. And that's part of the reason why I can say to you, without qualification or reservation, that this young man is one of the greatest players of all time."
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Barry Bonds

Dec. 22, 2005

Mark Kreidler: Not enough juice to keep Bonds out of Hall
The writer's perspective on Barry Bonds? That's easy.

Bonds is (1) Generally impossible to truly like from either close up or a distance, especially when he (2) Uses an occasional well-timed TV appearance in a blatant attempt to wipe out weeks or months of surly behavior toward the media (and, by extension, the public), which is not to overlook his career-long tendency to (3) Alienate many or most of his teammates by (4) Making it abundantly clear that they need him and not the other way around, all of which makes it easy or even terribly tempting to believe that he (5) Achieved either some or a substantial portion of his greatness through chemical, BALCOian means.

Oh, and (6) He's a mortal lock for the Hall of Fame.
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Barry Bonds

Dec. 2, 2005

Rob Neyer: Let stats speak for themselves
Every time steroids make headlines, I get asked about the asterisk.

"Should baseball put an asterisk or something next to Barry Bonds' records?"

My answer is that "baseball" shouldn't do any such thing, and nobody else should, either. Because the asterisks (or whatever that people are thinking about) are opinions, not facts. And the statistical record is the last place you want to see somebody's opinion.
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Barry Bonds

Sept. 8, 2004

Mark Kreidler: Don't bank on 756 homers
They'll never file this one under Breaking Developments, but: The only thing that will stop Barry Bonds is Bonds.

That may be the good news; it may be the bad news. Shoot, it may not even be news until Bonds says it is, and that could take a while yet.

With the 40-year-old outfielder having joined the 700 Club, ascending a power peak that only two others in baseball history have scaled, it's at least worth remembering -- if only for a minute or two -- that the one thing Bonds possesses in greater exponential form than strength is timing. How he deploys that timing, as he tracks down first Babe Ruth and then Henry Aaron, could prove the most fascinating aspect of the end of his career.
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Barry Bonds

April 14, 2004

Jayson Stark: Why Barry won't pass Hank
Our friendly neighborhood mathematicians tell us that "at this rate," Barry Bonds will blow away Hank Aaron's career home run record in Game 15 of the 2006 season.

So be sure and book early, while there's still time to take advantage of those special 700-day advance-purchase fares.

It sure is a beautiful thing how our friendly neighborhood mathematicians can throw around those fun phrases like, "at this rate," at times like this.

If only everything in life happened "at this rate," we could all hit the Powerball, time the stock market and hit the trifecta at Saratoga pretty much at will. Which would leave us a lot more time to calculate the next 50 things about to happen "at this rate."
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