How many MLB players have stolen 500 or more bases and hit 500 or more home runs? How many MLB players have topped 400 in each category?
The answer to both questions is one player, Barry Bonds. Bonds so dominated the game of baseball during his career that not only is he the only player to have both 500 or more stolen bases and home runs, he is also the only player to exceed 400 or more in each category. Making Bonds' accomplishment even more impressive is the fact that the 300-300 club is a very exclusive one comprised of only eight players: Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Andre Dawson, Carlos Beltran, Reggie Sanders, Steve Finley, and . . . Bobby Bonds.
Of the eight, Mays and Rodriguez are the only other players to hit 500 or more home runs; Mays hit 660, and Rodriguez 696. However, just as impressive, with 461 stolen bases, Bobby Bonds is the only other member of the club to steal 400 or more bases. As a matter of fact, none of the others exceed 350 stolen bases. Again, Mays with 338, and Rodriguez with 329, are the next closest after the Bonds Family. Providing a visual of just how dominant the younger Bonds was, both at the plate, and on the base paths, below is a graph which charts each player's home runs relative to his stolen bases.
There are those baseball fans who would simply attribute Barry Bond's exceptionalism to performance enhancing drugs, yet in an era in which many players are known to have taken, or are suspected of having taken, P.E.D.'s, Barry Bonds still managed to dominate the competition. P.E.D.'s aside, are there any other possible factors which might shed light on why Barry Bonds so dramatically outperformed his fellow big leaguers?
There is an old saying that if you can see farther than others, it is because you are standing on the shoulders of giants. In Barry Bonds' case, those are San Francisco Giants, Bobby Bonds and Willie Mays. Barry Bonds presents a classic case study for the age old debate of nature versus nurture; however, instead of arguing whether his accomplishments are the byproducts of one or the other, the debate would focus on which portion of his skills would be attributed to nature and and which to nurture as he was blessed with an abundance of both.
There is no doubt that the Bonds Family has the baseball gene. As stated above, Barry's father, Bobby, is one of only eight elite players to join the 300-300 club, and of those eight players, only Bobby and Barry qualify for the 300-400 club. Although Jose Canseco was the first player to officially achieve 40-40 in the 1989 season, during the 1973 season, Bobby was the first player to come close to achieving this baseball milestone.
In 1973, Bobby stole 43 bases but had just 39 home runs. He came so close to being baseball's first 40-40 man; that year Bobby had hit a 40th home run in a game that eventually rained out thus expunging the potential record setting homer from the official books. Not surprisingly, the second player to achieve 40-40 was Barry Bonds in 1996. Bobby was the first player to join Willie Mays in the 300-300 club, and he held the record for the most 30-30 seasons with 5 until Barry tied him. Bobby has the major league's fifth highest career power-speed number trailing only Ricky Henderson, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, and Barry.
As for the nurture side of the ledger, Barry was raised among baseball royalty as if he were being groomed to assume baseball's throne. Each day during baseball season, Barry and his brothers would accompany their father to Candlestick Park where all summer they would hang out with major leaguers including a host of Hall of Famers: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, and Gaylord Perry. His godfather was the greatest baseball player of all time, Willie Mays. While at the ballpark, Mays instructed his godson to follow him wherever he went, and Barry complied soaking up all the baseball wisdom Willie could dispense.
Bobby and Willie poured all their baseball knowledge into their young protoge. When Barry joined the Giants in 1994, he had already posted Hall of Fame numbers, but Mays, a team consultant, and Bobby, one of the Giant's coaches, worked with him constantly to further hone his craft. Above is a link to a video showcasing the highlights of Barry's career, and below is a link to a video in which Barry, his mom, Willie Mays, and Willie McCovey recall his upbringing among the major leaguers.