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Bonds' attitude doesn't detract from his historic talent

By HUBERT MIZELL, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 3, 2002

If somebody asks, "Who's the best all-around ballplayer ever?" the names Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio and maybe the disenfranchised Pete Rose seep smoothly from the lips.

If somebody asks, "Who's the best all-around ballplayer ever?" the names Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio and maybe the disenfranchised Pete Rose seep smoothly from the lips.

They earned it.

Whom would you add?

Evidence continues to pile up to include Barry Bonds among baseball's historic elite. This is a hard guy to like, but an easy talent to admire.

He hit a record 73 homers last season, but that's a mere paragraph in a volume of Bonds evidence. First in Pittsburgh and now San Francisco, his excellence surpasses his arrogance.

Assessing on-field greatness, it should not be a factor that Bonds will never come close to being as romantic as DiMag or as entertaining as Babe or as much a ballpark cutthroat as Cobb or as flamboyant as his biggest hero, Mays.

Bonds not only hits with extraordinary power, his outfield defense is consistently terrific. Good arm. Not a bad runner. He hit .328 last year, drove in 137 runs, achieved a remarkable .863 slugging percentage and walked 177 times. Still, it is on-base percentage that has always been Barry's favorite barometer.

"I've forever aimed for .500, reaching base in half my at-bats," he said. "Seventy-three homers was as much an accident as an accomplishment but the on-base numbers (.515 last season) are what really thrilled me."

He can be a Giant pain, but put Bonds among the greatest.

BUNTS: You wonder, would the Florida Gators have lost only two or three basketball games instead of a half dozen, perhaps earning an SEC championship and No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, had Teddy Dupay not behaved like a bonehead, causing his senior season to be appropriately purged? ... What's harder to believe, that Frank Gifford will soon turn 72, Ringo Starr is almost 62 or that Bob Costas celebrates his 50th birthday this month? ... If they assigned me to guard Shaq O'Neal, the tactic would be obvious -- stomp on the big guy's ailing big toe and run for an exit. ... What intrigues about Cal Ripken buying a minor-league baseball franchise and relocating it from Utica, N.Y., to his hometown of Aberdeen, Md., is the team once was owned by a man from a profession where millionaires are far less frequent -- former Minneapolis and Orlando sports writer Bob Fowler. ... It's been weeks since Sebastian Janikowski got arrested for doing something stupid, a probability that no longer keeps Jon Gruden awake nights. ... Dennis Green declared, "Al Davis and Bill Walsh are the two best minds in the history of football." Smarter than Jerry Glanville or Terry Bradshaw?

PUNTS: With its reputation for phonies, felons, sexual misconduct and con artists, it's hardly a surprise that Washington granted a boxing license to slugging scum Mike Tyson. ... Ironically, just across the Potomac River in Virginia is one of America's biggest, classiest shopping areas, known as "Tyson's Corner." ... Cheers for Ernie Harwell, retiring on his terms after the '02 season as Detroit's classic baseball announcer, having been fired years ago until listeners/fans screamed so vociferously the Tigers rehired the grand voice. ... Wonder, if they'd spent $325,000 on security at the Salt Lake Olympics, instead of $325-million, would there have been any more violence? ... George Steinbrenner, baseball's most prodigious spender, can afford it due in part to paying a minuscule $10-million for the Yankees in 1973, a holding whose current worth is estimated by Forbes magazine to be $635-million. ... Months ago I wrote that Fox's Best Damned Sports Talk Show was a piece of garbage. Remarkably, it has slid from that standing. ... My newspaper buds, Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post, have won booming ratings with their daily P.T.I. barrage on ESPN. ... Howard Cosell was wrong about a lot of things, but how accurate he was in declaring that broadcasting was being more harmed than helped by "jockocracy."

Whatever happened to Fred Dryer?

-- To contact Hubert, e-mail mmizell02@earthlink.net or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.

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