Bonds wins 6th MVP Award

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 19, 2003

NEW YORK - This one was for Dad.

Barry Bonds won a record sixth National League MVP award Tuesday, becoming the first player to capture the honor for three consecutive years.

His thoughts immediately turned to Bobby Bonds, his three-time All-Star father who died in August.

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''This award is more special to me than any award I've ever received because it's dedicated to my father,'' said the San Francisco outfielder, who has won twice as many of these awards as any other player.

''He has been my hitting coach my entire life, ever since I was a little kid. I miss him dearly. It's a really emotional time for me right now.''

And a controversial time, too.

Bonds and other athletes have been subpoenaed to testify by a federal grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, a nutritional supplements lab. On Monday, a lawyer for Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, confirmed his client is a target of the probe.

Bonds declined comment on BALCO, citing his lawyer's advice. But he did welcome the start of steroid testing with penalties in baseball next season. The testing was triggered when more than 5 percent of tests this year came back positive in an anonymous survey.

''I am glad there is going to be testing,'' he said. ''I am glad that, hopefully, hopefully, it will diminish a lot of everyone's speculation, and everyone can just move on.''

Bonds defended his withdrawal from the Major League Baseball Players Association's licensing program starting next season, meaning the union can no longer make deals to use his image on souvenirs.

Bonds wants to control his likeness as he approaches Hank Aaron's career home-run record of 755. Bonds is fourth with 658, also trailing Babe Ruth (714) and Willie Mays (660), Bonds' godfather.

By going on his own, Bonds said he will be able to give back to the community and fund projects.

''I felt I've really been misrepresented throughout my career as a bad guy, bad person,'' Bonds said. ''This gives the licensees an opportunity to really know me.''

Bonds, the only player to win more than three MVPs, hit .341 with 45 homers and 90 RBIs, leading the major leagues in slugging percentage (.749), on-base percentage (.529) and walks.

The 12-time All-Star received 28 of 32 first-place votes and 426 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

St. Louis outfielder Albert Pujols was second with three first-place votes and 303 points. Atlanta outfielder Gary Sheffield got the other first-place vote and was third with 247 points.

Among the four major North American professional sports, only the NHL's Wayne Gretzky has more MVP awards, with nine. The NBA's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also won six MVPs.

''To be able to say you've won this award six times, there's no words for it,'' Bonds said.

If he maintains his home-run pace, Bonds would reach Aaron's record in 2005 or 2006.

''I feel that Hank Aaron's record is the greatest single record in all of sports,'' Bonds said. ''It's going to be a very difficult task to do. I'm prepared for the challenge. I just don't know if it's reachable.''

Bonds has reached 45 homers in four straight seasons, hitting a record 73 in 2001.

At 39 years, 3 1/2 months, Bonds became the second-oldest MVP, trailing Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell, who was about 4 1/2 months older when he tied for the award in 1979.

''I feel 29 right now,'' Bonds said. ''But during the season, I feel 49. That day in-and-day-out grind is very difficult.''

Bonds, who has set records for walks and intentional walks, hopes the Giants add another slugger to support him in the lineup.

''I'm looking very much forward to next season,'' he said. ''I started training just two weeks after the season. I'm training even harder this year than I did last year. I really want to see if I can put things together without my father for the first time.''

Pujols hit a major league-high .359 with 43 homers and 124 RBIs and led the major leagues with 137 runs. He became just the 10th player to finish second in consecutive MVP votes, the first since the Dodgers' Mike Piazza in 1996 and 1997.

San Francisco players have won the award four straight times, with Jeff Kent winning in 2000, when Bonds finished second in the voting for the second time. The Yankees accomplished that feat twice with Yogi Berra (1954-55) and Mickey Mantle (1956-57), and Roger Maris (1960-61), Mantle (1962) and Elston Howard (1963).

Bonds gets a $500,000 bonus for winning the award. Sheffield, who became a free agent after the season, earned $75,000 for finishing third. Florida's Juan Pierre gets $200,000 for finishing 10th.

Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, Don Ketchum of The Arizona Republic and Bill Zack of Morris News Service, who covers the Braves, voted Pujols first. Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch voted Sheffield first.