Bonds vs. Ruth


Baseball slugger Barry Bonds, who moved into third place on the all-time home run list after surpassing his godfather Willie Mays earlier this week by smacking his 661st tater, has never been known for his charm. He continues to display the tenacity and intensity (some people would read: arrogance) in chasing the all-time Major League home run title. From a story in today's Cincinnati Enquirer:

Bonds picked an argument with [Babe] Ruth as recently as July, saying that if he surpassed Mays, the only other number he cared about was the Bambino's 714.

"Because as a left-handed hitter, I wiped him out. That's it," the Giants left fielder said nine months ago. "And in the baseball world, Babe Ruth is everything, right? I got his slugging percentage and I'll take his home runs and that's it. Don't talk about him anymore."

As a fan of Ruth, I still dig Bonds' attitude, which helps explain his incredible career more than any drug supplement ever could. He's absolutely right that Ruth is baseball--the Babe personified and dominated the game like no other player before or since--and Bonds' desire to surpass the Sultan of Swat reflects a champion's mindset (as does Bonds' continued interest in winning a World Series title). Of course, if and when Bonds passes Ruth on the home run list, he won't have diminished Ruth's stature (the only thing that does that--and it's not inconsequential--is the fact that Ruth played his entire career during segregation and hence was not facing the absolute best competition of his day).

The Enquirer story includes this interesting comparison between the two, which to my mind minimizes what's inevitably described as the "dark cloud" hovering over Bonds due to allegations of steroid use:

They have so much in common: a compact left-handed swing, a cartoonish knack for long and/or dramatic home runs and a personality that, for better or worse, commanded as much attention as their play.

They are similar in home runs (Ruth 714 to Bonds' 661), walks (2,062 to 2,079), strikeouts (1,330 to 1,389) and doubles (506 to 540).

They even have about the same size and weight. Each is listed at 6-foot-2, with Ruth at 215 and Bonds at 228, although Ruth's body late in his career looked like a sack of potatoes and Bonds' looks like a steel mill.