Barry Bonds was a real "Home-r" Print E-mail
Written by Jim Rednour   
Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Perhaps the only certainty surrounding Barry Bonds’ ascent to the top of the home run mountain was that his record-tying 756th blast would occur -- whether by design or coincidence -- at home, within the friendly environs of the San Francisco AT&T Park, where he could be sure of receiving a suitably warm tribute from the crowd.

Just as nearly all of his previous milestone homers, including his 500th long ball (4/17/2001), occurred within the only major league stadium where his slugging achievements have been met with unequivocally positive response by the Giants’ home crowd.  That list includes homer #71 that broke the single-season record in 2001, #600 the following year, the shots that tied and passed Willie Mays for third place all-time in 2004, #700 later that season and #715 in 2006 to move past Babe Ruth.  About the only noteworthy homer to come outside of San Francisco occurred just across the bay in Oakland.

 
Bonds’ steady march towards Hank Aaron's all-time home run record was one of the few positives of the Giants' 2007 season.  San Francisco’s manager Bruce Bochy publicly stated that he was going to do everything possible to make sure it happened at AT&T Park.  "I knew how important it would be to our fans.  That's why in a perfect scenario, he hit [the record-breaking homers] here. I figured if Barry got within one of the record on the road, that would probably be as good a time as any to give him a rest,” Bochy commented.

The Giants are the not the first team to managing the timing of landmark achievements to help assure that it would happen before their home crowd.  When Hammerin’ Hank Aaron broke Ruth's record in 1974, the Braves tried to make sure he did it at home.

After Aaron tied Babe Ruth's record with his 714th homer on Opening Day in Cincinnati, the Braves sat him out the next game -- the second in a three-game series -- in hopes of saving the record-breaker for home. However, for the series finale, then- MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn intervened and ordered the Braves to play Aaron. Aaron played, failed to homer, then hit No. 715 the next night in Atlanta.

The outspoken home run king had repeatedly said that he didn’t have the time at his age to worry about where his biggest record-breaking home run occurred, but he was pretty sure people would want to see it wherever it happens.
 
"They boo, but all them cameras flash every time I swing, don't they?" Bonds said. "Boo, but click, click, click, click, click, click. The fans like baseball, guys. Fans enjoy the game of baseball. Regardless of what anybody says, they're going to come. They want to see it happen."

One person who made it clear that he would not be in on-hand when Bonds broke the record was Aaron -- a stance interpreted by many as an indictment of Bonds.  

For his part, Bonds has always been respectful of Aaron’s place atop the all-time list.  On May 28, 2006, after hitting his 715th home run to pass Babe Ruth for second on the all-time home run list, he was asked about his quest for the all-time record of 755.  Bonds said. "Over 10 years ago, when Mike Tollin interviewed me for the Hank Aaron documentary, I said at the time that no one will ever get close to 755. Now, to finally have a chance to catch {and surpass} a legend, is really a mind-blowing honor."


Growing Up Bonds

The foundation for Bonds’ love of the Bay-area’s major league ballparks was built at an early age.  The son of three-time All-Star Bobby Bonds, godson of one of the game’s greatest players Willie Mays, and distant cousin of fellow 500 Home Run Club member Reggie Jackson, Bonds was destined for greatness.

He spent his childhood years roaming the clubhouse at historical Candlestick Park in San Francisco, getting tips from Mays and other Giants.  When asked what it was like growing up with a famous father, Barry said, “Well, he was still just my dad. Dads are dads. But Willie Mays was my idol (laughing).”

As a kid, Barry could hit a whiffle ball hard enough to shatter glass. When he started hitting baseballs, no window was safe. He broke so many windows at his house that his mom, Pat, became a regular customer at a nearby glass store.

Barry started his habit of choking up on the bat when he was young. His father used to bring home major league bats for his son to play with. The bats were so big and heavy that Barry had to choke up when he swung. To this very day, Barry still chokes up on the bat.

Barry’s godfather was Bobby’s teammate, Willie Mays. Mays saw a lot of himself in the swift and powerful Bonds, and took him under his wing. He was also serious about his godfathering duties, watching over Barry as he shagged fly balls during the Giants’ batting practice.

“My dream was just to play in the Major Leagues. I never saw anything that far ahead...I never tried to predict the future,” Bond said of his youth. “I just wanted to try to get to the next step. I wanted to go to college, because I thought if I could play at the next level with all the top athletes in that caliber, then I was ready for the next level. I never tried to jump too far ahead of myself.”

As early as Barry can remember, both Willie and his dad were feeding him baseball advice. They filled Barry’s young mind with the little secrets that had made them great ballplayers.

Barry also recalls his father attending his Little League games in the Northern California suburb of San Carlos—watching from his parked car so as not to create a commotion in the stands and steal his son’s spotlight.

"I've been able to do things with my father's help that I never thought I could do," Bonds said. "Nothing made me more proud than for my dad never to say anything I couldn't be. And I know he did that on purpose because outside the ballpark and at home he was a whole different person. All I wanted to do was outperform him.”

And, by most every standard, he has done just that.

Other Bonds Achievements

In 2001, Bonds' slugging percentage of (.863) set a single-season record. He also slugged .812 in 2004, only the second time in history that a player has bettered .800 twice (Babe Ruth was the other, with .847 in 1920 and .846 in 1921, respectively).

In 2002, Bonds amassed a .582 on-base percentage, breaking Ted Williams' 1941 record of .551. In 2004, Bonds finished with a .609 OBP, the only time a player has bettered .600 over a full season.

In 2002, Bonds won the National League batting title with a .370 average, becoming the oldest player to win the honor for the first time. In 2004, he won his second batting title with a .362 average.

During the 2002 post-season, Bonds set the record for most home runs hit in a single post-season (8). Bonds hit .471 with 4 home runs and 13 walks (seven intentional) in the World Series, thereby slugging 1.294 with a .700 on-base percentage. All but the batting average were World Series records.

In 2004, Bonds set the OPS single season record with 1.422.

In 2004, Bonds became the first player in history with more times on base (376) than official times at bat (373). This was due to the record number of walks, which count as a time on base but not a time at bat. He had 135 hits, 232 walks, and 9 hit-by-pitches for the 376 number.

Bonds has won the National League Player of the Month award thirteen times, which is a record for either league. The next highest in either league is Frank Thomas who won the A.L. award eight times and the next highest total in the N.L. is only six held by George Foster, Pete Rose and Dale Murphy.




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