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ROSS NEWHAN

On The Record

With Barry Bonds passing Hank Aaron on the home run list, possibly the most famous mark in sports has become easily the most controversial. Here are some reactions from those around the game.Some numbers are worth forgetting

August 08, 2007|ROSS NEWHAN

The numbers that bombard my brain now that the King of Cheats has become the new Sultan of Swat are not 7-5-6.

The numbers I can't shake have nothing to do with Barry Bonds' home run total and everything to do with it.

These numbers are a measurement of the Body by BALCO that has enabled Bonds to hit 345 home runs since turning 35 in 1999, when personal trainer Greg Anderson began pumping him with the steroidal substances known innocuously as the clear and the cream. In that time, according to authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams in an afterword in the most recent release of their thoroughly documented book, "Game of Shadows," Bonds' jersey size has gone from 42 to 52, his shoe size from 10 1/2 to 13 and his cap size from 7 1/8 to 7 3/4 .

A universal training machine or a new pharmacological universe?

Get real.

From 34 homers in 1999, when he began the physical transformation in an envious response to the publicity Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa received during their Great Home Run Chase of '98, Bonds would hit 49 in 2000, 73 a year later and 136 in the following three years while baseball was pretty much devoid of meaningful testing or testing, period.

As for 7-5-6, those resulting numbers, it's sad to think that the most renown record in sports belongs to a man still under investigation by a federal grand jury for possible perjury in regard to his steroid use and tax evasion, that Hank Aaron's record has been tainted by the lingering tentacles of an era of rampant substance abuse in baseball.

Bonds, of course, now becomes the historic poster boy for that era, but so many are part of the picture as well: the commissioner and his owners who turned their heads as the home run onslaughts revitalized attendance; the players' union, which delayed testing by playing the privacy card at the expense of all the players who didn't cheat, and those of us in the reporting business who failed for too long to question the validity of what we were seeing.

Now we all have to live with Barry Bonds and 7-5-6. Shameful.

--

Ross Newhan covered baseball for The Times for more than 40 years before his retirement in 2004. He was elected to the writers' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.

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