Numbers Game

Home run king Barry Bonds debuts on Hall of Fame ballot

December 10, 2012
2013 BBWAA Hall of Fame Candidate Barry Bonds (Brad Mangin/NBHOF Library)

On the baseball diamond, there was nothing Barry Bonds could not do.

The totals: 2,935 hits, a record 2,558 walks and a .444 on-base percentage. Five-hundred fourteen stolen bases, and the lone member of the 500 steal/500 home run club. Eight Gold Glove Awards in left field.

He recorded seven National League Most Valuable Player Awards – including four straight from 2001-04 – and 14 All-Star Game selections.

And a record 762 home runs.

Now, Bonds finds himself on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

Bonds is one of 37 players on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2013 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Bonds is making his debut on the ballot.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 9. Any candidate who receives votes on at least 75 percent of all BBWAA ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 28 in Cooperstown.

Born July 24, 1964 in Riverside, Calif., Bonds grew up in major league clubhouses around his father, All-Star outfielder Bobby Bonds. By 1982, Barry was one of the top high school players in the country, and was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the MLB Draft. But Bonds and the Giants could not come to an agreement, and Bonds decided to play college baseball at Arizona State. After three brilliant seasons with the Sun Devils, Bonds was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the sixth overall pick in the 1985 MLB Draft.

In less than a year, Bonds would debut as the Pirates center fielder.

After three-and-a-half years of moderate success as the Pirates leadoff hitter, Pittsburgh manager Jim Leyland dropped Bonds to the No. 5 spot in a lineup featuring Andy Van Slyke and Bobby Bonilla. That year – 1990 – saw Bonds display his all-around ability for the first time as he hit .301 with 33 home runs, 114 RBI and 52 stolen bases en route to the National League MVP Award.

The Pirates lost to the eventual World Champion Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS – with Bonds hitting .167 with one RBI – but the best was yet to come.

Bonds finished second in the MVP vote in 1991 following a slow start, but still hit 25 home runs and notched 116 RBI while leading the Pirates to another NL East title – and another subsequent loss in the NLCS, this time to the Braves. In 1992, Bonds was again named the NL MVP after hitting 34 home runs and scoring a league-best 109 runs. But once again, the Pirates lost to the Braves in seven games in the NLCS – this time falling in the bottom of the ninth of the final game when Sid Bream barely beat Bonds’ throw to home plate to score the game-winning run.

Bonds hit the free agent market following the 1992 season and quickly signed a six-year, $43.75 million contract with his hometown Giants.

“I did a lot of soul searching about where I wanted to go and who I wanted to be around,” Bonds told USA Today in 1993. “San Francisco was one of the teams I felt fit my style.”

Bonds fit right in on San Francisco Bay, leading the NL with 46 homers and 123 RBI while winning his third MVP in four years and his fourth Gold Glove Award. He continued his All-Star level play through the 1998 season – becoming the second player to achieve a 40 home run/40 steal season in 1996 – then missed almost half of the 1999 season with injuries.

But in 2000, Bonds rebounded with 49 homers and 106 RBI, setting the stage for a four-year run almost unmatched in history. Bonds broke Mark McGwire’s three-year old single-season home run record in 2001 with 73 homers, winning the first of four straight MVP awards.

“Since 1990, he’s been the best player in the league, I’d have to say,” Leyland said in 1998. “Maybe not every year, but over that period.”

In 2002, he hit 46 homers, drove in 110 runs and drew a record 198 walks while hitting a league-best .370, leading the Giants to the World Series. After struggling in his first five postseason series, Bonds was unstoppable in 2002 – hitting eight home runs and driving in 16 runs in 17 postseason games. In the World Series alone, Bonds hit four home runs, scored eight runs, totaled six RBI and walked an astounding 13 times – seven of which came intentionally. The Giants, however, lost to the Angels in seven games.

Following two more MVP seasons in 2003 and 2004, Bonds missed much of the 2005 season with knee injuries. But he returned in 2006 and 2007, mounting a challenge to Henry Aaron’s all-time home run mark. On Aug. 7, 2007, Bonds hit career home run No. 756 off Washington’s Mike Bacsik, etching his name into history. The ball Bonds hit for his record-breaking home run was eventually donated to the Hall of Fame.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum