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This Day In Sports: Emblematic of baseball’s steroids era

2007: Two baseball milestones are reached on the same day, and both are tainted. They come from Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. Enough said.
Credit: Lenny Ignelzi/AP Photo
San Francisco’s Barry Bonds watches his 755th career home run, tying Hank Aaron, during a game against the San Diego Padres in San Diego, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007.

BOISE, Idaho — THIS DAY IN SPORTS — August 4, 2007, 15 years ago today:

A day of irony in baseball history. To a mixture of cheers and boos in San Diego, the Giants’ Barry Bonds hits his 755th career home run, tying Hank Aaron on the career list — asterisk and all. And the guy most people at the time expected to surpass Bonds someday, the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, clubbed his 500th homer (probably with an asterisk himself now). Three years later, to the day, Rodriguez would hit No. 600 in his career after a 12-game wait. He was only the seventh player in history to reach that milestone — and at the age of 35, the youngest.

Bonds and Rodriguez are indelibly tied to baseball’s Steroid Era, which roughly covered the 1990s and early 2000s. Bonds’ body noticeably grew after he went to San Francisco, and so did his stats. The height of it came in 2001, when he broke Mark McGwire’s single-season record with 73 home runs. And therein lies part of the story. McGwire and Sammy Sosa had waged an intense battle for the record in 1998, with McGwire swatting a record 70 and Sosa ending with 66. Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and pitcher Roger Clemens are the poster persons for the Steroid Era: four great players in baseball history, and nary a one in the Hall of Fame.

Rodriguez appears to have joined them for the long-term. He was eligible for the Hall of Fame this year for the first time and drew only 34 percent of the vote (75 percent is required for induction). Rodriguez’s involvement in juicing both bolstered his career numbers and hampered them. He was suspended for the entire 2014 season for his ties to the infamous Biogenesis clinic and his use of steroids over a multi-year period. Rodriguez never came close to surpassing Bonds’ record of 762 homers and finished his career with 696.

Two more players have joined the 600 Club since Rodriguez, and neither is saddled with a steroids asterisk. Jim Thome hit his 600th home run in 2011 while playing for the Minnesota Twins and finished with 612. And Albert Pujols, who began his career in St. Louis when McGwire was still active as a Cardinal, clubbed his 600th with the L.A. Angels in 2017. Pujols is back with the Cards in what could be his final season — he currently has 686 career homers.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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