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  1. #1
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    The Home Run King - Barry Bonds

    As he approaches one of the most hallow titles in Baseball, many are left wondering whether Barry Bonds truly deserves the title: "The Home Run King":

    Home run record may bring Bonds neither respect nor adulation
    June 29, 2007 Friday
    Associated Press Worldstream
    By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer

    Major League Baseball's home run record ranks as the most prized in all of American sports, coming with a title that reflects its regality.
    Is Barry Bonds so worthy?
    Babe Ruth was a true Home Run King, reaching the feat in a fashion fit for the excesses of the Roaring Twenties a big-swinging, big-eating, big-drinking lovable slugger who was among the country's first sports heroes.
    His mark spanned the decades and different social attitudes until 1974. The man who broke it did so during a new era in baseball, while the issue of race still smoldered after the tumultuous 1960s.
    To this day, Hank Aaron is respected more than adored as his reign nears its end. Bonds approaches the Hammer's record of 755 shrouded in controversy.
    And there are many who believe Bonds' crown will never shine so brightly.
    Bonds is getting little respect or adulation from the public as he nears the mark he was at 749 on Thursday and for that he might have himself to blame, despite recent efforts to be more personable.
    He has long been known for a prickly, selfish personality and a strained relationship with the media, which has grown only more contentious since allegations of doping use began overshadowing his long list of accomplishments on the field.
    "That's too bad, because Barry is such a great and unique talent. He should be celebrated for that," said New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the player widely thought to be the next challenger for the home run record. "His numbers are mind-boggling. There's no one comparable in the game."
    But instead of being remembered for the home runs, a record seven MVP awards, 500-plus stolen bases, eight Gold Gloves, more than a dozen All-Star selections and countless other on-field achievements, the words most observers will always associate with Bonds are BALCO and steroids.
    Signs in stadiums around the country scream "CHEATER" or "Barroid," and some feature nothing more than a simple asterisk the symbol many believe should sit right next to Bonds' numbers because of the possibility he fueled his pursuit with performance-enhancing drugs. A few fans even dress up as syringes.
    Fpr 42-year-old Bonds he turns 43 on July 24 this treatment is all pretty tame and nothing new. Fact is, the only ballpark where he's beloved is his own.
    He signed a $15.8 million (euro12 million), one-year contract to play a 15th season for the San Francisco Giants, the club where he's long been comfortable. Bonds grew up in the Bay Area, bouncing around the clubhouse while hanging out with his late ballplayer father, Bobby, and godfather, Hall of Famer Willie Mays.
    "I was born in this game," Bonds said. "I've seen a lot of things with my father and I've seen a lot. So I was tough-skinned at an early age. That's the only way I can sum it up."
    Like him or not, Bonds' powerful swing, acute hand-eye coordination and ability to block out all of his off-field distractions are what his peers constantly praise.
    "No one does it like him," New York Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "He has the best eyes I've ever seen."
    Never an overly popular player, Bonds' reputation took a major hit in September 2003. That's when federal agents raided a little-known nutritional supplements company called the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, located in suburban Burlingame just south of San Francisco.
    The raid and the ensuing investigation that forced Bonds and other players to testify in front of a grand jury turned steroids into the game's No. 1 topic.
    Bonds' trainer and longtime friend, Greg Anderson, pleaded guilty to money laundering and steroid distribution and spent three months in prison.
    Grand jury testimony given by Bonds and others was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and questions of cheating could no longer be ignored.
    Bonds never admitted to knowingly using illegal substances famously saying he thought his trainer was giving him flaxseed oil and an arthritic balm but investigators and most of the public failed to believe his story. Authorities suspected those items were actually "the clear" and "the cream," two substances connected to BALCO.
    Prosecutors are investigating Bonds for perjury in connection to his grand jury testimony, and nearly three-quarters of the people polled this year by ABC News and ESPN said they think Bonds knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.
    "Barry has to deal with a lot. You go on the road, they love to boo the great players," first-year Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's got that remarkable ability to keep his focus on the game and not let any of that distract him. He's there to play baseball. He's not bothered about who's throwing things at him or booing him. He just laughs about it and keeps his focus on the game."
    Bonds' fellow players, for the most part, are more supportive. Perhaps that's because he has never failed a doping test since MLB began punishing players for using performance-enhancers. Maybe it's because they know others might have juiced, too.
    MLB commissioner Bud Selig said he was prompted to launch an ongoing doping investigation last year based on the book "Game of Shadows" by two Chronicle reporters who detailed Bonds' alleged use of steroids, insulin and human growth hormone.
    Authors Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada wrote that Bonds started using steroids because he was jealous of the attention paid to Mark McGwire's home run race with Sammy Sosa in 1998. Three years later in 2001, Bonds hit 73 homers to break McGwire's single-season record.
    Persistence was ingrained in him at a young age. Bonds has always been closer with his mother, Pat. Bobby Bonds who died in August 2003 at age 57 was mostly an absentee dad who played 14 years in the big leagues.
    It was Bonds' mother who called on June 5 and "screamed" at him that his play was hurting the team. That was during a period in which he had played 51 of the Giants' first 56 games and needed two days off to rest shin splints.
    Health concerns, accusations and any perceived slights aside, Bonds is still the most feared slugger in the game.
    That's because he has finally been healthy again. Fit as ever after a productive winter workout, Bonds feels as good as he has since before missing all but 14 games in 2005 following three operations on his troublesome right knee.
    He is running well, getting to more balls in left field and often plays in day games following night games rarely his practice in the recent past.
    And he still causes opposing managers and pitchers to think hard each time he steps in the batter's box, sporting his bulky body armor that makes it easier to crowd the plate.
    "He's one of the most selective and patient hitters in all of baseball," said Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Eric Byrnes, who grew up a Giants fan in Northern California. "The numbers aren't going to lie. He's going to pass Hank and he is going to go on to hit probably 800-plus home runs."
    AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this story.

  2. #2
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