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08/03/07 2:14 AM ET
Bonds his own collector in homer chase
Slugger, one shy of tying record, pays for his gear
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Every time he hits a home run, Giants slugger Barry Bonds has a penchant for saving his uniforms once an official from Major League Baseball authenticates each item that he wears during that particular at-bat. And that's his prerogative. Bonds purchases almost all of his baseball gear and spends thousands of dollars every season, he told MLB.com before leaving Dodger Stadium on Thursday night with zero homers to show for three games. The practice is going to continue after he ties and breaks Hank Aaron's Major League record of 755 career homers because each subsequent moon ball is going to set a new record, Bonds said, although Major League Baseball hasn't determined yet whether to stop authenticating the baseballs that are put into play for every Bonds at-bat after the historic shot. "I pay for everything I wear out of my pocket except for my shoes; I have a contract for that," Bonds said, waving his hand across a locker stocked with undergarments, socks, stirrups and wristbands as well as Giants caps, grey road uniform tops and pants. "I've been doing that for years." Bonds was 1-for-2 with two walks (one intentional) in Thursday night's 4-2 Giants victory over the Dodgers. Heading into Friday night's opener of a three-game series in San Diego against old friend Greg Maddux, Bonds has gone five full games and 24 plate appearances (including two singles and 10 walks) since hitting homer No. 754 during the first inning last Friday night at San Francisco against the Marlins. It's likely Bonds will play in at least two of the three games against the Padres at PETCO Park. He hasn't sat out since July 25, having started seven games in a row. Bonds, who sustained the constant derision from sellout partisan Dodgers crowds this week without incident, said he has a shoe contract with Fila, the company that also supplies his wristbands. But as far as the rest of the gear goes, including his custom-made bats, he says he writes out an annual check to the Giants to pay for all that. Since about the time he hit homer No. 600 almost four years ago (Aug. 9, 2002), Bonds began the practice of authenticating everything he wears from each home run. He then either boxes and stores the mementos in the archives he keeps at his Beverly Park, Calif., home or places the key ones behind glass in his own personal second-floor Hall of Fame. He has an empty spot already picked out in a climate-controlled trophy room for all his stuff from No. 756 directly adjacent to the display that includes everything from the May 28, 2006, at-bat in which he hit No. 715 off then Colorado's Byung-Hyun Kim to pass Babe Ruth into second place on the all-time list. On June 26, Bonds told a representative of the National Baseball Hall of Fame that he would immediately donate the batting helmets he wears when he hits the historic homers, but he intends to keep the rest of his artifacts until he retires. Bonds has repeatedly said that he expects to play at least one more season, his 23rd. Bonds also said that he would later pass along the shoes, the bat, the jersey and pants from those famous blasts, among other items from his prolific career, during which he has won two National League batting titles and seven NL Most Valuable Player awards. He confirmed those intentions to Jeff Idelson, a Hall of Fame vice president, who joined the chase here this week. Bonds has six of the MVP plaques hanging on the dark-wood rafters along what can only be considered a trophy row that also honors his godfather, Willie Mays, boxer Muhammad Ali and singer Michael Jackson. "But I ran out of room to hang the seventh [MVP plaque]," he said about arranging the voluminous collection. "It's a work in progress." Bonds told Idelson that he would first offer his teenage son, Nikolai, a choice of keeping any of his memorabilia. After that, Bonds said he would invite officials from the Hall to his home so they can select any of the other items, which also include those eight Gold Gloves awarded for his defensive play in left field. Bonds said he has recommended that all players reaching milestones begin to secure their personal items. Trevor Hoffman, the All-Star closer for the Padres, began doing so last season after he passed Lee Smith for the most saves in Major League history. "After your career is over, you can auction off some of this stuff," Bonds said. "What's a complete uniform from one of my run-of-the-mill home runs worth, $50,000, $60,000? That's a college scholarship for some kid." Bonds estimates that his Giants uniforms probably cost him about $100 each. "It's not like we have to pay full price," he said. Because this is the season of the Aaron chase, Bonds added that he bought uniforms in bulk. He's already used 18 of them to hit his 20 homers, because he's smacked two homers in a single game twice already this season -- April 13 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and July 19 at Chicago's Wrigley Field. "I usually don't change my uniform during a game no matter what I do," said Bonds, although he is considering wearing two sets of uniforms and baseball paraphernalia on the day he hits the historic home runs just to have them as added keepsakes.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.