Barry Bonds: the New Sultan of Swat
The numbers are astonishing, even in an era of inflated batting stats. Not only did Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs this season, three more than Mark McGwire's standard set in 1998, but the San Francisco Giants left fielder also shattered records for slugging percentage and walks held by Babe Ruth since early Prohibition. Finally, Bonds became the first player to win four MVP awards—all at the advanced age of 37. Throughout he kept a civil tongue, softening a reputation for churlishness that has shadowed his 16-year career. "I had a lot of people actually trying to get along with me, as well as myself trying to get along with them," says Bonds. "Before it was always 'Stop, can you sign autographs?' 'Want, want, want.' " Still, when Bonds slugged career homer 500 in April, only though relations later thawed. "He's at times in his own world in the clubhouse," says FOX announcer Joe Buck. A father of three wed to second wife Liz, 32, Bonds has a sparkling diamond pedigree. His father, Booby, 55, was a '70s star; godfather Willie Mays is a national institution. With 567 lifetime homers, Bonds now approaches the totals of Mays (660), Ruth (714) and Henry Aaron (755). "I can always improve," he says. "I can be a better father, husband, friend, PR man, role model. Life is work on an everyday basis."
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