Nasty guy finishes first

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Sometime in the late 1960s or early '70s, somewhere on the grass between the San Francisco Giants dugout and the first-base line at windy Candlestick Park, their paths must surely have crossed.

One was an old man by then, plenty crotchety, downright mean, managing the Chicago Cubs, or maybe it was the Houston Astros.

The other was a kid, maybe five or six or seven, cavorting around before games playing catch with his dad and his godfather.

The first is reputed to have authored the immortal line "Nice guys finish last."

The second spent the past 22 years demonstrating the reverse is true as well.

Nasty guys finish first.

That longstanding Barry Bonds storyline became official Tuesday, when he clubbed his 756th home run to pass the Hank Aaron on the career list.

Somewhere, Leo (The Lip) Durocher, either looking down from a cloud, or up from down below, probably smiled.

Now that the long wait is over, you wonder about a couple of things.

Is it really just the steroid controversy that has resulted in the love-to-hate-Bonds club growing exponentially the past few years? Or, as dear friend Wayne Parrish asks, does a lot/most/all of it have to do with his prickly personality?

In my years of covering baseball, I've never come across a single major league player as widely despised as Bonds by fans and so widely respected by players.

This year he's perceived as hanging on, just to get the record, creeping and creaking to the finish line like an old car coasting into the gas station.

In this most difficult season, at the past-due date age of 43, he ranked first in on-base percentage (.495), a whopping 64 points over Chipper Jones, going into last night's games and first in on-base plus slugging (1.064), 29 points over Alex Rodriguez.

Bonds has had two strikes against him through the pursuit -- the steroids thing and his personality, which saw him kicked off his college team.

LACKS AARON'S HUMILITY

Yet how would he have been viewed if he only had one strike against him and had been humble as Aaron was?

We remember a Q and A in Playboy a few years ago when the lead investigator was asked why he decided to go after Bonds:

"Because I didn't like the way he was rude to reporters," was the answer.

Even if Bonds took steroids between 1999 and 2003, Bonds never broke the laws of baseball since there was not a rule preventing players from taking them.

He is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, hitter of all time. No one has done so much while seeing so few pitches. He has a career batting average of .298, an on-base mark of .444 (walking 2,540 times) and a slugging percentage of .607.

He has won seven most valuable player awards.

Barry Bonds ... new home run king.

You don't like the ring of it and you don't like saying it, do you? Fine, then, don't say it.

You can still respect Aaron as the greatest home run hitter of all time if you want.

Argue with your pals how really the best slugger ever was Babe Ruth, as he redefined the game and saved the game from the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

This new benchmark, No. 756, means Bonds has the most long balls. He does not have the most respect. And like Aaron after he hit his 715th, this number will not be the final one. Bonds will hit some more the final seven weeks and he has been making noise that he may hang around next season.

Barry Lamar Bonds, home run king.

And a first-ballot Hall of Famer on my ballot.

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FIVE YEARS AT A TIME

Here's a breakdown on how the top five home-run hitters in major-league history, and two notable current players not in the top five, compiled their homer totals (Yesterday's games not included):

RK PLAYER TO AGE 25 25-30 30-35 35-40 40-45 TOTAL

1. b-Barry Bonds 79 174 169 261 73 756

2. Hank Aaron 140 202 168 213 42 755

3. Babe Ruth 49 235 232 192 6 714

4. m-Willie Mays 119 166 227 121 27 660

5. s-Sammy Sosa 70 203 266 65 - 604

t6. g-Ken Griffey, Jr. 172 226 103 88 - 589

22. r-Alex Rodriguez 172 237 91 - - 500

b -- Active, Bonds born July 24, 1964

m -- Mays served in U.S. Army 1952-53

s -- Active, Sosa born Nov. 12, 1968

g -- Active, Griffey born Nov. 21, 1969

r -- Active, Rodriguez born July 27, 1975


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