Home Run King or Con?

The Sports Community Remains Divided on Whether Barry Bonds Truly Holds the All-time Home Run Record or if it Still Faithfully Belongs to Hank Aaron


San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds looks on as another ball leaves the park and brings him one step closer to a baseball legend. (Paul Kitagaki Jr/Sacramento Bee/MCT)

Published: August 30, 2007

As the towering drive deflected off the façade of the second tier of PETCO Park, the San Diego Padres home stadium, Barry Bonds rounded the bases amid an ambivalent chorus of joy and dismay. Hall of Famer Hank Aaron’s legendary career home run record had just been tied by the controversial slugger and, four days later, was surpassed by Bonds, who took the title of home run king as his alone. However, the man will likely never measure up to the stature of the record. Millions of fans around the nation watched in disbelief, not only at the magnitude of the record, but in the surrealism of it all.

The chase for the most important record in baseball was a spectacle, more like a circus than a game of baseball. The fans and the media watched Bonds break the record with far more concern about who would or would not attend the event rather than witnessing the event itself.

This unfortunate outcome was anticipated ever since Bonds was implicated in the steroid scandal. Commissioner Bud Selig witnessed the record-tying home run, looking visibly joyless and pacing nervously. He was not in attendance for the record-breaker, however, as he was ironically at a meeting with Senator George Mitchell about Mitchell’s investigation into steroids in baseball. Those who did watch, supporters and detractors alike, knew they had just witnessed an event that would alter the course of the game forever.

Upon tying the most celebrated record in baseball history, Bonds was not congratulated by a single member of the opposing team, none of whom even bothered to emerge from the dugout. In fact, none of Bonds’ own teammates even greeted him at home plate. When he finally broke the record a few days later, only a handful of his teammates congratulated him. Bonds then thanked the San Francisco crowd, the only fans that supported him unconditionally throughout his chase.

The tragic fact is that Bonds and his new record will forever be tainted by allegations of steroid use. Bonds was one of baseball’s most gifted athletes long before the baseball world ever heard the word “steroids.” But now, his name and baseball’s most historic record will never be considered pure again.

Ironically, on the same day that Bonds tied Aaron, Yankees’ slugger Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player ever to reach 500 career home runs. Rodriguez was mobbed by all of his teammates at home plate and received a curtain call at Yankee Stadium. Despite all his troubles playing in New York, Rodriguez received the praise that an honest athlete deserved. If he indeed used steroids, Bonds sacrificed his integrity for only a short stay as baseball’s best statistical slugger. Rodriguez is well on pace to surpass Bonds in the near future. If Rodriguez can continue his historic pace, fans can look forward to a much less controversial record chase and a much more widely respected home run leader in the next few years. Aaron was respected throughout the game as an athlete who maintained his integrity despite the adversity and racism he faced. He is a legend, not only for his athleticism, but for the respect he had for the game.  Bonds has eclipsed Aaron in the record books, but has yet to earn what Aaron did through his sincere perseverance: the respect and love of the entire baseball community.