Papers Respond to Bonds' HR in Varying Ways

By: Joe Strupp and Greg Mitchell Everyone knew it was coming, so there was plenty of time to debate and decide how to play it. So how did the nation's leading newspapers respond when Barry Bonds set the new all-time home run record in major league baseball last night? Did they highlight the tainted nature of it -- due to accusations of use of steroids and human growth hormone -- of downplay it?

The Washington Post put it right in the lede, but merely used the word "controversial" : "Seven fifty-five, the most cherished number in baseball if not all of American sports, lived a good, long, noble life. Spawned from the powerful bat of an aging slugger named Hank Aaron on July 20, 1976, it grew in stature over the years, surviving the occasional challenge and ruling over the record book even as other, lesser records fell. But on a cool Tuesday night near the shores of San Francisco Bay, 755 finally perished at the hands of a relentless, controversial invader from the west named Barry Lamar Bonds. Seven fifty-five is gone. Behold, 756.:

The Boston Globe also put it up front and in stronger terms: "America last night crowned a new home run king, a scandal-tainted star who emerged from baseball's steroid era to succeed two of the national pastime's most revered icons, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, and claim the most hallowed record in sports."

The New York Times placed the words "awkward" and "debate" and "authenticity" in the second paragraph: "Bonds?s 756th homer pushed him past Hank Aaron and pushed baseball?s history into an awkward spot. He is alone now atop the career home run list. Let the debate about the authenticity of Bonds?s record begin. It will be here for a while."

The Times' columnist, George Vecsey, in a piece starting on the front page, also made reference to Bonds wearing "new age arm padding" (a subject raised by E&P earlier this week).

The Los Angeles Times waited until the seventh graf for this, and then declared that it caused all questions to be left behind for the moment: "For an instant, all the doubters, all the critics, all those who pointed toward his alleged use of steroids, who accused him of tainting the game and its most treasured record, had been left behind."

From the third graf of the Associated Press account, which also embraced the "forgotten for now" angle: "For one spectacular moment, Barry Bonds and everybody cheering him could forget about the controversy surrounding his chase and appreciate the phenomenal feat: 756."

The Chicago Tribune waited until the 10th paragraph: "This was a joyous occasion for San Francisco fans but a moment that many baseball fans and Commissioner Bud Selig had dreaded. The widely held belief that Bonds transformed his body with steroids and other illegal performance-enhancing substances, yielding to temptation in baseball's testing-free era after the beefed up Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were placed on pedestals for their record-setting home run hitting in 1998, causes the achievement to ring hollow."

The hometown San Francisco Chronicle put it right in the second graf: "Is he the greatest home run hitter of all time? All who cherish this game will have to search their hearts and answer that question in their own way. But the number is not open to debate, dispute, praise or scorn. The major-league record is 756, and Bonds owns it."


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