Barry Bonds 756: A Complicated Road to History

Barry Bonds 756
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Barry Bonds hit the 756th home run of his career fifteen years ago today to break Hank Aaron’s record. Like it or not, Bonds remains the all-time home runs leader. Bonds played 22 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants. He had a .298 batting average, 2,935 hits, 762 home runs, 1,996 RBI and 2,227 runs scored. Bonds won seven MVP awards, eight Gold Gloves and 12 Silver Slugger awards.

However, Bonds’ road to breaking the home run record was not an easy path to follow. There’s no denying he produced some of the most memorable seasons in baseball during his 22-year career with the Pirates and Giants. On paper, it proves that Bonds has the credentials to earn a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ultimately, his path to Cooperstown has been stalled due to his ties to performance-enhancing drugs.

Barry Bonds 756

Milestone Home Runs

On June 4, 1986, Bonds hit his first major league home run off of Craig McMurty of the Atlanta Braves, the first of his 762 career home runs. He placed sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting, but Bonds took off in 1990. That season, he hit his 100th career home run while hitting .301 with 33 home runs and 114 RBIs. He won his first career NL MVP award while collecting his first 14 career All-Star appearances.

 

Here is the list of his milestone home runs leading up to his 550th home run.

Home Run Date Pitcher Opponent Park
100 July 12, 1990 Andy Benes Vs. San Diego Three Rivers Stadium
200 July 8, 1993 José DeLeón @ Philadelphia Veterans Stadium
250 July 18, 1994 Shawn Boskie @ Philadelphia Veterans Stadium
300 April 30, 1995 John Burkett Vs. Florida Candlestick Park
350 June 22, 1997 Chan Ho Park  Vs. LA Dodgers Candlestick Park
400 August 23, 1998 Kirt Ojala @ Florida Pro Player Stadium
450 April 15, 2000 Todd Stottlemyre Vs. Arizona Candlestick Park
500 April 18, 2001 Terry Adams Vs. LA Dodgers Pacific Bell Park
550 August 27, 2001 Kevin Appier  @ NY Mets Shea Stadium

Bonds Chased History in 2001

Bonds found himself in an elite company during his 2001 campaign. He won his first four consecutive NL MVP awards, but that’s not all. On April 18, 2001, Bonds became the 17th player to hit 500 home runs. That same day Bonds formed a club of his own: 500 home runs and 500 steals.

Despite Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in a single season being an AL record, Mark McGwire enjoyed his NL record for three seasons. Bonds finished his incredible 2001 season when he took Chan Ho Park deep for his 71st home run of the season. He added home run No. 72 off of Park two innings later. Altogether, Bonds finished 2001 with 73 home runs, the most in a season in MLB history.

2002-2004

On August 9, 2002, Bonds joined three of baseball’s greatest hitters with his 600th career home run. The 38-year-old was 155 home runs from tying Hank Aaron’s career record. Yet, in June 2003, this was when reports came about Bonds and his possible connection to performance-enhancing drugs. But, six MVPs, a single-season record of 73 home runs, and many other accomplishments didn’t feel like enough for Bonds. Eventually, Bonds caught up to his godfather.

He hit his 660th homer to tie Willie Mays for third place on the career list did the trick. The next day, Bonds surpassed Mays for third place in career home runs. Bonds became the oldest player to win an NL batting title. Also, he became the first player to win five MVP awards. He broke his own-year-old record for walks (177) and passed Ted Williams’s on-base percentage in a single season, a 61-year-old mark. Of course, Bonds had more to do; he still had three years to beat Aaron.

Later that season, with his 700th home run, Bonds moved closer to baseball’s two greatest sluggers. Bonds’ 392-foot solo shot made him the first new member of the 700 club in 31 years. Bonds wasn’t slowed by age, despite being 40. Also, steroid suspicions or pitchers and managers walking him with record frequency didn’t stop him.

Bonds Beats Ruth

No. 715 played out the way Bonds had hoped for in front of the fans at San Francisco. The slugger moved past Babe Ruth on the career home run list on May 28, 2006. But, the then 41-year-old dealt with health problems. He underwent three surgeries on his right knee and bone chips in his left elbow. Many people believed his rapid race up the home run chart was fueled by steroids-despite Bonds denying using them. With his age and injuries, it was thought Bonds would stick around long enough to break Aaron’s record with 755 homers.

Bonds Ties Aarons NL Home Run Mark

The fact that Bonds tied Aaron’s NL home run record in the same city where the Hall of Famer started and ended his career was special. However, when he hit his 733rd, and 734th homer runs, it was at Miller Park and not Milwaukee County Stadium. Bonds’ two home runs in two days him 21 homers behind Aaron’s career record.

Bonds Ties, Surpasses Aaron

On August 4, 2007, Bonds tied Aaron’s 33-year-old home run record for N0. 755 against the San Diego Padres. His homer in that game was his 72nd after age 40, tying Carlton Fisk for the most all-time. It took him only six games to get to 754 and 755, but it took him five games to go from 714 to 715.

August 4 turned out to be a historical one for baseball. Not only did Bonds hit his history-tying homer, but Álex Rodríguezof the New York Yankees hit his 500th career home run that same day. It marked the second day of the 2007 season to produce multiple MLB milestones. On June 28, the Houston Astros, Craig Biggio, got his 3,000th hit, whereas Frank Thomas of the Toronto Blue Jays hit his 500th career homer.

756!

As Bonds got closer to Aaron’s record, he got mixed reactions. Some were happy for him, while others held signs depicting an asterisk, a reference to the slugger’s controversial link to baseball’s steroid scandal. Commissioner Bud Selig rose to his feet with his hands in his pockets for the feat. He released a statement later that evening that befitted the controversy surrounding Bonds.

August 4, 2007, Bonds swung then immediately threw his hands in the air, realizing he had become the all-time home run leader in major league history. No. 756 pushed him past Aaron as he is alone atop the career home run list. He took a fastball from Washington Nationals left-hander Mike Bacsisk to right-center field, breaking Aaron’s record.

About a month later, Bonds hit his 762nd and final home run of his career against the Colorado Rockies. He passed Lou Gehrig for fourth on the career RBI list with 1,996. Bonds sit fourth all-time as Aaron, Ruth and Cap Anson are first, second, and third, respectively.

The Record Remains Untouched

When it comes to Bonds, there are two categories of opinion about him and his place in the game. The first is that Bonds was the best to play the game. He made mistakes and shunned others, but his excellence stands out most. Then, the other opinion is that Bonds’ accolades should be removed due to his link to steroids. Either opinion can go on and on, but the fact is that Bonds’ home run record remains one of the most unattainable records in baseball.

He retired after the 2007 season, becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame Ballot in 2013. Unfortunately, he came short in his 10th and final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Nevertheless, the idea of a player surpassing 762 is impossible. Then again, so was the idea of passing Aaron’s 755 or Ruth’s 714. Maybe someday we will see a new legendary slugger launch home run No. 763 or 72 in a single season. Until then, Bonds sits at the top.

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Players Mentioned:

Barry Bonds, Andy Benes, José DeLeón, Shawn Boskie, John Burkett, Chan Ho Park, Kirt Ojala, Todd StottlemyreTerry Adams, Kevin AppierRoger Maris, Mark McGwire, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Carlton Fisk, Álex Rodríguez, Craig Biggio, Frank Thomas, Lou Gehrig, Cap Anson