Bonds receives presidential congrats

Bonds receives presidential congrats

SAN FRANCISCO -- A short night's sleep for Major League Baseball's new home run king was made even shorter Wednesday when Barry Bonds received a mid-morning telephone call.

The man who hit his 756th homer Tuesday night to pass Hank Aaron on Major League Baseball's all-time home run list picked up the phone and President Bush was on the line.

"That was pretty neat," Bonds, looking a tad dazed and tired, told reporters while lounging in front of his locker before Wednesday night's game against the Nationals. "How many times do you get to talk to the president? Maybe if you win a World Series or something. But as an individual? That's what I'm talking about."

Bush, the former president of the Texas Rangers in what must seem like another lifetime, congratulated Bonds for his achievement.

"You've always been a great hitter and you broke a great record," Bush told Bonds on the phone, according to White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

Bonds said he told the president, who has been under fire because of the five-year-old war in Iraq, that he has many friends who are soldiers and is strongly behind the troops.

"[The president] said, 'Congratulations,'" Bonds said. "It was great having my kids there, my family there. He understood the importance of being a father and that [the home run] was an outstanding achievement."

Bonds said he had received 80 messages since breaking the record Tuesday night, including one from Yankees third baseman and 500-homer hitter Alex Rodriguez, returning about 20 of them. Bonds also spoke at length Wednesday to Jim Leyland, the Tigers manager who was Bonds' skipper in Pittsburgh for the first seven years of his career.

"I don't even want to look at it," Bonds said about the phone. "It's been ringing off the hook."

It may come as somewhat of an irony that the Bush U.S. Justice Department headed by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez is still pursuing a case against Bonds for perjury during a federal grand jury investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative for drug laundering and the sale of illicit performance-enhancing drugs without prescriptions nearly four years ago.

Another grand jury sitting in San Francisco and hearing testimony regarding the Bonds perjury case has been extended to its full 18-month term and is currently adjourned.

Bonds was asked if those topics ever came up during the course of his conversation with the president.

"Are you serious?" he said. "Dead serious? No. It never ends."

During a Fox News interview later Wednesday, Bush was asked about Bonds' alleged involvement in Major League Baseball's steroid era. The perjury case has arisen over Bonds' 2003 grand jury testimony in the BALCO case that ultimately netted indictments of five people, including BALCO founder Victor Conte and Greg Anderson, Bonds' former personal trainer.

In his testimony that was illegally leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, Bonds said he never knowingly used steroids.

"There is a lot of speculation about Barry Bonds, and my only advice for people is to just let history be the judge," Bush said during the interview. "Let's find out the facts, and then everybody's opinion -- one way or the other -- will be verified or not verified."

Though Bonds has often said he didn't use steroids, Bush added that any new revelations could disappoint a lot of people. And ultimately the onus for how Bonds will be honored would be placed on the shoulders of members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, who annually elect former players into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Baseball and the baseball writers will have to make the determination as to whether or not he would receive the highest accolade of all, which would be to be admitted into the Baseball Hall of Fame," Bush said.

"It really depends on what the facts are, and it's going to be up to [baseball] to make the determination as to an asterisk [on the record], but more importantly, it will be the Hall of Fame. That'll be the ultimate decision point for the baseball writers. In the meantime, anybody who knows the game will tell you Barry Bonds is a great hitter."

The record-setting homer came with one out and none on in the fifth inning off Nationals left-hander Mike Bacsik and was crushed 435 feet away into the bleachers just right of center field.

Bonds now holds the record for most homers in a career, most in a single season (73 in 2001), most for a 42-year-old (26 in 2006) and most as a 43-year-old, a number that is still ascending. His 73 homers since he turned 40 are the most by any player from that age on, and that includes five he hit in 2005, the season in which he had a trio of surgeries on his right knee.

He's the only other player in Major League history, aside from Babe Ruth, to hold the career and single-season home run records at the same time.

Bonds went into Wednesday night's action 19 RBIs short of becoming the third player to reach 2,000 behind Aaron and Ruth and was 85 hits short of 3,000. If he reaches both marks, he'll be the only other player aside from Aaron to amass 700 homers, 2,000 RBIs and 3,000 base hits.

Because of all the suspicions and allegations, Bonds has been hampered by intermittent questions throughout his pursuit of Aaron.

Asked Tuesday night after accomplishing the feat whether he felt the record was tainted, Bonds bristled.

"This record is not tainted at all, at all. Period," he said. "You guys can say whatever you want."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.