Leadoff to liftoff: Bonds' road to 600
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Although Barry Bonds was a heralded prospect who was called up only 44 games into his first full professional season, few might have predicted the Pirates' lanky leadoff hitter would someday become one of the game's elite power hitters.
But with a solo shot in the sixth inning Friday, Bonds became the fourth man in Major League history to hit 600 home runs.
Bonds, who set the single-season home run mark in 2001 with 73, joined Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in the hallowed pantheon of long-ball legends.
The 38-year-old slugger reached the milestone in fewer at-bats than both Mays and Aaron, accomplishing the feat in 8,212 at-bats. But with his 600th coming the season after he reached the 500-homer plateau, Bonds burned through that 100-homer stretch faster than any of the other three.
Bonds smacked his 500th on April 17, 2001, and then tacked on his next 100 in 710 at-bats, easily topping the 1,121 at-bats Ruth needed to go from 500 to 600. Ruth recorded his 600th in his 6,921st at-bat.
Regarded as one of the greatest players in baseball history even before hitting 73 homers last season, Bonds continued his assault on the homers list to kick off the 2002 season. He rapped two in each of the first two games of the year and now has 33 this season.
Bonds, an 11-time All-Star, became the first player ever to hit 400 homers for one team and 100 for another when he notched his 400th as a Giant on May 4. He hit 176 with the Pirates.
He began the season in seventh place on the all-time list but passed Harmon Killebrew in the season's second week, topped Mark McGwire in late May and surpassed Frank Robinson for fourth the first week in June.
With his current pace, San Francisco's left fielder stands a good shot at eventually eclipsing the all-time mark of 755 homers established by Aaron. The home run king notched his 600th on April 27, 1971, off the Giants' Gaylord Perry in Atlanta.
Next up for Bonds, however, is his godfather, Mays, who tallied his milestone Sept. 22, 1969, in San Diego off rookie Mike Corkins. Mays is third on the all-time list with 660 clouts.
Ruth, of course, first passed the milestone en route to his then-record 714 career homers. No. 600 came off the St. Louis Browns' George Blaeholder on Aug. 21, 1931.
A member of the Bonds family has been in three of the four games in which a player hit his 600th homer. Bonds' father, former Giants star Bobby Bonds, was on the field for both Mays' and Aaron's milestone blasts.
The younger Bonds clubbed his first career homer five days after his callup, a solo shot in the fifth inning of a June 4, 1986, contest in Atlanta off the Braves' Craig McMurtry.
Four years later, Bonds tallied No. 100, bashing the milestone off the Padres' Andy Benes on July 12, 1990, in the first of his unprecedented four MVP seasons.
After the 1992 season, Bonds left Pittsburgh and signed as a free agent with the Giants, the team that had drafted him out of high school in the second round of the 1982 draft. He turned down that contract offer and the chance to play for his hometown team in order to attend Arizona State University. He was drafted by the Pirates in the first round (sixth overall) three years later.
With the Giants, Bonds quickly attained another milestone, collecting his 200th homer in Philadelphia off Jose DeLeon on June 8, 1993.
He cracked No. 300 in 1996 off former teammate John Burkett, who was then a member of the Florida Marlins. With that shot, he became the fourth player in the 300 homers/300 steals club, joining Mays, father Bobby Bonds and Andre Dawson. No. 400, struck two years later off Kirt Ojala while visiting the Marlins, made him the founding member of the 400/400 club. Bonds needs 11 stolen bases to become the charter member of the 500/500 class.
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.