On July 24, Barry Bonds celebrated his 48th birthday. Major League Baseball and the San Francisco Giants should be giving Bonds their deepest gratitude. Let’s not forget what the man did despite all of the allegations thrown his way. He was must see tv. You didn’t have to like the guy, but when he came up to the plate, everybody watched. We had no choice, it was almost like breaking news with every at-bat. What was so certain about Barry Bonds was when he approached a milestone and the four letter network broke in to show his live at-bats, he would deliver! Far as allegations of whether or not he took PEDs it is not up to me render a factual verdict. In fact, how can we judge all of these successful ball players breaking these sacred records if MLB allowed it to happen? Ever since the summer of ’98 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa brought the game back to the fans, we have been treated to the best offensive explosion in the history of baseball. Fans packed the stands and owners fattened their wallets. Many baseball fans went for entertainment, and no one provided that diversion from life’s realities better than Barry. Here are some of the great moments of Mr. Barry Lamar Bonds.
10. September 27th 1996, Giants vs Rockies: Barry Bonds celebrates his induction to the 40/40 club.
Only an elite specimen can hit for power and steal bases. Barry did it 40 times (42 homers and 40 stolen bases each) in 1996, as he became the first player in the National League to do it and the second player in Major League Baseball behind Jose Canseco (1988) to reach the exclusive 40/40 club. Since Barry reached the club, only Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Alfonso Soriano (2006) have joined. Barry’s father almost joined the club, as he was known for his successful run at the 30/30 club. Bobby Bonds was one home run short in 1973, as he finished the season with 39 homers and 43 stolen bases. Barry and father Bobby Bonds hold the Major League record for attaining the 30/30 club five times each in their illustrious careers.
9. May 28, 1998 Diamondbacks vs Giants: Buck Showalter’s Int’l Walk on Barry Bonds
Bonds was given the night off, and the Giants found themselves down by 3 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. This was a night set up perfectly for Bonds, as manager Dusty Baker pulled an ace out of his hand and told Mr. Bonds to pinch-hit… Two-outs, bases loaded and down three… There was no place to put Bonds, so you had to pitch to him. Well, manager Buck Showalter had some cards to play as well. He saw Brent Mayne on deck, so Showalter pulled a JOKER from his hand and instructed pitcher Gregg Olson to intentionally walk Barry with the bases loaded! The last time that happened was in 1944, when Bill Nicholson of the Chicago Cubs took four pitches with the bases loaded. It was only the sixth time in the history of the game that anyone made a move like that. When Bonds walked, cutting the lead to 8-6, Brent Mayne lined out to end the rally, and the Diamondbacks won the game. It’s always a gutsy move when everything goes as planned, but just imagine if Mayne would have gotten a base hit. Bonds was the most intimidating hitter since Babe Ruth. It is unfortunate that he rarely had anybody protecting him in the line-up.
8. April 17, 2001 Dodgers vs Giants: Barry hits #500
Could there be a better team to reach a milestone than the arch rival Los Angeles Dodgers? With the Dodgers holding a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning with pitcher Terry Adams relieving, the Giants had a man on first. Bonds was in a hitters count as Adams fired a 2-0 fastball that was crushed into McCovey Cove for a Giants 3-2 lead and the 500th career home run for Mr. Barry Lamar Bonds.
7. October 4, 2001 Giants vs Astros: “Please pitch to our daddy!
Who could possibly forget Bonds’ youngest child pleading in the stands while holding a sign reading, “PLEASE PITCH TO OUR DADDY!” Barry was sitting at 69 home runs, one blast away from Mark McGwire’s ’98 record. McGwire broke the single season home run record that stood by Roger Maris since 1961. It was a record everyone thought McGwire would hold as long as Maris did. McGwire may have held that record as Barry was getting NOTHING to hit. In 2001, Bonds had already broken the MLB record of bases on balls (177), so he was used to taking first base. Who in their right mind wanted to give up home run number 70? All night, Barry saw no good pitches, as he walked three times before Astros manager Larry Dierker called the dogs off and finally let someone pitch to Bonds. Dierker put in Wilfredo Rodriguez to pitch to Bonds in the ninth inning, and of course, the four letter network broke in to show his at-bat. This time it felt different. This was the time when we would see history. The game was out of reach with a score of 8-2 in top of the ninth inning. Barry took a 1-1 pitch over the right center wall for home run #70!
6. October 5, 2001 LA Dodgers vs Giants: Barry slams numbers 71 and 72!
We already discussed the LA & SF rivalry. Barry was at home and in front of his beloved fans with meatball pitcher Chan Ho Park at the mound. Barry didn’t waste anytime as he scorched his record-breaking 71st home run over right center wall and got some more home cooking in the third inning by slamming number 72 over center field wall. It was a great love affair that evening, but the Dodgers spoiled the day with an 11-10 victory. Two days later, he hit his 73rd home run of the season off of Dennis Springer, and as of now, Barry still remains the single season home run king. In that magical year, he also drew 177 walks, had a .515 on-average, and he also set a Major League record with a slugging percentage of .863.
5. June 24, 2003 LA Dodgers vs Giants: Not only does Barry own LA, he steals from them too!
We thought the 40/40 club was elite. What about the 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases club? Like Bonds or not, this elite club is ridiculous. Barry was the only Major League player in history to reach 400/400 in 1998. Who in the world is ever going to reach the 500/500 club? Of course he stole #500 against the Dodgers in the bottom of the eleventh inning in a 2-2 tie. Moments later Benito Santiago singled him home for a Giants victory. It is 2012, and there are only 7 players in the MLB history to obtain 300 homers and 300 stolen bases. Only Barry Bonds has eclipsed both 400 and 500 homers/ 500 stolen bases.
Home run number 660 is probably more meaningful than hitting 714, 755, or even 762. Barry tied the “Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays in home runs on April 12, 2004. He reached the milestone in San Francisco as Matt Kinney, of the Milwaukee Brewers, watched Barry connect on a 3-1 pitch that sent another souvenir into McCovey Cove. The next day, Ben Ford became the next victim to Barry, as Bonds delivered #661 into McCovey Cove. After the game, Barry was interviewed by Barry M. Bloom and John Schlegel of MLB.com and stated:
“I just feel like right now I completed our family circle,” Bonds said. “Willie took my dad under his wing when he first came up and taught my dad a lot about baseball and became a real close friend of my father’s.”
“It’s my dad in right field, Willie in center field and I get to be in left field. There’s just no greater feeling than completing the circle of my family.”
3. 2004 The season continued! Barry’s greatest season.
Not only did Mr. Bonds pass his godfather on the home run list in 2004, but he also led the National League in hitting with a .362 batting average. This was the second batting title he won in three years (2002 .370). He once again broke his own Major League record in bases on balls. Bonds walked so much that he passed Rickey Henderson’s record of 2190 career walks. Barry’s total career walks is an astounding 2,558. He slugged .812, which was fourth-highest of all time (he holds the MLB record .863), and broke his on-base percentage record with a .609 percentage. These numbers are cartoonish! How can anyone play this game and be on base 60% of the time? The only active player to even come close to what Barry achieved is Jason Giambi at .477 in 2001. With the season Bonds had in 2004, you could have guessed another MVP award was coming his way, in fact it would be his fourth consecutive MVP award and his seventh overall. No other major league player has more than three. On September 17, the spotlight was on Barry Bonds again, in San Francisco looking for that celebrated 700th home run. You know who decided to show it live, as they have with all of his milestones (ESPN). Would Jake Peavy of the San Diego Padres, dare to throw that money ball? I am sure Peavy had no intentions of backing down. This is the Major Leagues, and his job is to get batters out. The end result? You guessed it… Home run #700. Barry has put his name in high society now, one of three men to ever hit 700 home runs.
2. May 28, 2006 Rockies vs. Giants: Poor Byung-Hyun Kim, does #715 ring a bell?
Babe Ruth’s name was everything in baseball, he could do no wrong, he was the standard, the man, and everybody looked up too him. He is still one of the most recognizable athletes in American history. At one point, Babe had every meaningful record. Ruth’s last ball game was in 1935, and to this day, people talk of him as if they saw him play. On May 28, 2006, Barry was on another mission, and on that Saturday afternoon, Mr. Bonds faced Colorado Rockies pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim, who owned Bonds. Going into that at-bat, Barry never got a hit off Kim. He was 0-9 with five walks, and struck out once. Kim threw the first pitch to Barry and well… Take a look for yourself.
1. August 7, 2007 Nationals vs Giants: Move over Mr. Henry Aaron. There is a new Home Run King. Bonds, Barry Bonds!
With all the reality television shows out there today, not one could measure up to the daily saga of Barry Bonds. Since he hit his 500th home run, media from everywhere followed his whereabouts and watched his every move. No one thrived under the scrutiny better than Barry as he took every punch and performed. Leading up to breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record, there were multiple reports of Barry using PEDs and how he was linked to BALCO. His name kept surfacing, and his long-time pal Greg Anderson would sit in jail because he refused to testify against Barry. That’s a helluva friend! With all this going on, there was another highlight at Pac-Bell Park. The four letter network broke in once more to let all of America see history. It was again must see tv. Washington Nationals’ Mike Bacsik was the next victim in line to face the future Home Run King. If anybody knew about the meaning of 755, it would be Bacsik, as his dad pitched to Hank Aaron when he was sitting on number 755. Luckily, Senior only gave up a meaningless single, and if you look at Aaron’s home run totals, he never hit another homer. This was Junior’s chance to make history, and he did just that. Mike Bacsik had a 3-2 count on Barry Bonds. The next pitch was a foul ball. Finally on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Bonds takes his usual patented swing, smacks the ball and stands at the plate with his hands raised toward the sky. He did it… Home run #756!
Baseball is all about stats and its unfortunate that the San Francisco Giants didn’t give their superstar one more year. Barry had only 65 more hits to reach 3000, 38 more homers for a total of 800, four more RBI to reach 2000 and 69 more runs to pass Rickey Henderson on the all-time runs scored list.
A message to the all the Barry Bonds supporters and haters: I am not naive to what has transpired during Bonds’ career. I am simply pointing out that we may never see the likes of Mr. Bonds again. Alex Rodriguez (644) and Albert Pujols (463) may be the ones to pass Barry on the home run list. As to Barry Bonds making the Hall of Fame, it will be decided by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. His relationship with the writers has been foul and with the allegations, he probably knows that the writers will be out for revenge. Bonds decision for the Hall will come this winter. Baseball is not holier than thou, there are scandals in every era, it’s part of the game. You will see this winter how facetious the writers and Hall of Fame members will act toward the likes of Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa in efforts to keep them out of the Hall.
I mentioned earlier how important McGwire and Sosa were to bringing fans back to baseball with their epic summer of ’98. Barry Lamar Bonds extended the excitement in baseball. All I wanted from baseball was a reason to watch again, and Barry Bonds surely gave me plenty of entertainment. Thank you, Barry, for what you did. I just hope there is another one of you out there one day.