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Bonds, Barry Lamar

BONDS, Barry Lamar

(b. 24 July 1964 in Riverside, California), major league baseball outfielder who hit a record 73 home runs in one season and is the first major league baseball player to both hit 400 home runs and steal 400 bases in his career.

Bonds was the first of three sons of Bobby Lee Bonds, a major league baseball player, and Patricia Ann Howard, a homemaker. He is also the godson of the Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Mays and a cousin on his mother's side of the Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson. Bonds attended high school at Serra High School, an all-boys Catholic school in San Mateo, California, starring not only in baseball but in football and basketball as well. Upon Bonds's graduation in 1982, the San Francisco Giants selected him in the second round of the amateur draft. When the Giants' $70,000 offer to Bonds fell short of what he desired, he decided to attend college at Arizona State University.

Bonds was named to the All–Pacific 10 Conference baseball squad in each of his three years playing for the Arizona State Sun Devils. During his sophomore season he tied an NCAA record with seven consecutive hits in the College World Series. As a junior in 1985 he was chosen to the Sporting News All-America Team. Bonds entered the major league draft in 1985 and was chosen as a first-round pick (sixth overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bonds began his major league career with the Pirates on 31 May 1986. He soon became known for the same combination of power and speed that had marked the careers of his father and his godfather, averaging more than 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases over his first 4 seasons. In 1988 Bonds married Susann "Sun" Margreth. The couple had two children before divorcing in 1994. On 10 January 1998 Bonds married Elizabeth Watson, with whom he had one daughter.

On 5 July 1989 Bonds, building on his father's success, set a record for the most home runs (408) hit by a father and son combination, breaking the mark formerly held by Gus and Buddy Bell and Yogi and Dale Berra. In 1990 Bonds helped lead the Pirates to the National League East division championship. Although the team lost in the League Championship Series to the Cincinnati Reds, Bonds was named the National League Most Valuable Player for the season, posting a .301 batting average with 33 home runs, 114 runs batted in, and 52 stolen bases. He became only the second man, following Eric Davis of the Cincinnati Reds in 1987, to hit at least 30 home runs and steal at least 50 bases in the same season. However, Bonds's performance in the playoffs was disappointing when he hit .167 with only 1 run batted in.

The following year Bonds finished second to Terry Pendleton of the Atlanta Braves in the National League Most Valuable Player award voting. The Pirates, however, finished first in the National League East again. The team lost in the League Championship Series, this time to Pendleton's Braves. Bonds finished with a .148 batting average in postseason play with no runs batted in.

In 1992 the Pirates again lost to the Braves in the National League Championship Series after winning their third straight division crown. While Bonds finished the postseason with better statistics than in the previous two seasons, his .261 batting average and 2 runs batted in still were disappointing. Nevertheless, for his 1992 season Bonds collected his second National League Most Valuable Player award.

On 8 December 1992 Bonds left Pittsburgh as a free agent and signed a six-year, $43.75 million contract with the San Francisco Giants. At the time of its signing, the contract made Bonds the highest-paid player in baseball. In Bonds's first year with the Giants, the team won 103 games under the first-year manager Dusty Baker. However, an incredible second-half surge by the Atlanta Braves left the Giants one game short of the National League West division crown at the end of the season. Bonds though picked up another National League Most Valuable Player award, his third in four years, to become only the eighth player in major league history to win three Most Valuable Player awards.

Between 1994 and 2000, while with the Giants, Bonds continued to provide both speed and power, averaging more than 30 home runs and almost 30 stolen bases per season. Along the way he achieved some career highlights. In 1996 Bonds became only the second major league player, following Jose Canseco in 1988, to steal 40 or more bases and hit 40 or more home runs in the same season. In 1997 Bonds recorded the fifth season of his career in which he hit at least 30 home runs and stole at least 30 bases, tying his father for the most such seasons in major league history. In 1998 Bonds became the first player in major league history to steal 400 bases and hit 400 home runs in his career. Only Bonds, his father Bobby, his godfather Willie Mays, and the long-time Expo and Cub player Andre Dawson have stolen more than 300 bases and hit more than 300 home runs in their careers.

In 2001 Bonds had one of the most spectacular seasons in baseball history. In the first month of the season, he became the seventeenth player in major league history to surpass the 500 home run mark for his career. By the All-Star break, Bonds had hit 39 home runs, which broke the previous record of 37 held by Mark McGwire and Reggie Jackson. Bonds continued to hit balls out of the park, tying McGwire's record of 70 for the entire season with a home run on 4 October. The next day, Bonds broke the record with two more home runs before finishing with one more two days later to set a new mark of 73. Bonds's record was made all the more remarkable by the lack of hittable pitches that he received. Unlike McGwire's Cardinals, who were out of playoff contention with plenty of time still left in the season, Bonds's Giants were in a pennant race until the season's final week. That season, Bonds also broke Babe Ruth's 78-year-old record for walks in a season, establishing a new mark of 177, and he was again named MVP of the National League.

Throughout his career Bonds has been criticized by many for being unfriendly toward the media, fans, and other ballplayers. But even his most outspoken critics acknowledge Bonds's accomplishments on the field. In terms of raw statistics, no other player has shown the same combination of power and speed as Bonds.

Insight into and information about Bonds's life and career are in Hank Hersch, "30/30 Vision," Sports Illustrated (25 June 1990); Richard Hoffer, "The Importance of Being Barry," Sports Illustrated (24 May 1993); Johnny Dodd, "Family of Giants," People Weekly (4 Oct. 1993); and Bruce Schoenfeld, "Unfinished Business," Sport (Apr. 1994).

Raymond I. Schuck

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