For Barry Bonds, his dream of seeing the Baseball Hall of Fame one day open its doors and invite him in still lives on.
The former San Francisco Giants star was nine percent shy of the 75 percent needed for enshrinement in his 10th and final year on the Baseball Writers of America ballot in January. Appearing on ESPN's "KayRod Cast" Sunday night with Michael Kay, Alex Rodriguez and guest Roger Clemens, Bonds was asked if being kept out of the Hall bothered him.
"To me, the only candid answer I can give you is that that dream is not over," Bonds said. "That's it. One phase of it has passed, but the dream of the Hall of Fame for us is not over."
Bonds’ hope -- and Clemens' and likely Rodriguez's -- are now expected to be in the hands of the Today's Game committee, which is comprised of Hall of Fame players, executives and veteran media members who will meet later this year to consider retired players who fell off the ballot.
Bonds' standing as baseball's all-time leader with 762 career home runs was not enough to overcome the suspicions and accusations of performance-enhancing drug use that, in the eyes of many voters, tainted his numbers.
The seven-time NL MVP was asked by Kay if, given his body of work, he wonders why he was not voted into the Hall of Fame.
"Honestly, I've never even thought about it," Bonds said. "It is what it is. That's their vote. They're entitled to their vote. But that dream is still not over for me."
Does getting into the Hall of Fame mean a lot to him?
"It means a lot to all of us," Bonds said. "100 percent, yes. We've earned it"
Bonds joined the broadcast from his California home as Aaron Judge attempted to match Roger Maris' American League record with his 61st home run of the season during the Yankees-Red Sox game.
"I'm cheering for him, man," Bonds said. "Even though we played, we're all fans of the game. Seeing what he's doing is amazing."
"I hope he does it while I'm right here on the show, baby," Bonds later added with a laugh.
Bonds, who in 2001 set the single-season record with 73 home runs, is one of the few who understands what Judge is experiencing. Since hitting his 60th home run on Monday, Judge has gone five games without going deep, going 1-for-3 on Sunday before the game entered a rain delay after the sixth inning and later was called, giving the Yankees a 2-0 win.
"Trying to get to that 61 is the hardest one," Bonds said. "Trying to get to that one, once he gets to it, then he's probably going to hit five or six in a row after that. But trying to get there, I think that’s the hardest one. It's a big moment, number 61...That pressure hits you hard on that one. Getting to it, you're just playing your game and they just come. But right now, this is the stage. He's on stage. Everyone wants to see this exact one to tie."
Judge, a Bay Area product, is also in contention for the Triple Crown, leading the American League with a .314 batting average (tied with Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts) and 128 RBIs. The 30-year-old outfielder is set to test free agency this winter, having turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million offer from the Yankees prior to the season.
Bonds -- who was idolized by Judge as he was growing up in Linden, Calif. -- was asked if he thinks the Giants will try to sign the Yankees slugger.
"I don't know. I have no idea," Bonds said. "All I am is a fan of Judge. I know he's a hometown boy here in San Francisco. Would we love to have him? Sure. 100 percent. I mean, if he wants to come home."
That was exactly what Bonds wanted to do in 1993, signing with his hometown Giants over the Yankees. Bonds said he was close to signing with the Yankees for "about 15 or 20 minutes" after they offered him a similar contract to what Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg was making at the time.
"Unfortunately, they said, 'You have until 2 o'clock this afternoon to make a decision,'" Bonds said. "I just said, 'I'll get back to you about it' and I went off to go grab something to eat cause I'm like, 'Wow, that was kind of strange.'"
While out to eat, Bonds received a call from his agent, who said the Giants offered a higher contract.
"I said, 'This is great. I'm gonna go home,'" Bonds said. "I always wanted to play at home. That was my dream to play with my godfather and my father on the same team. So, it wasn’t much of a conversation with the Yankees, but they did make the first big offer to me at that time. But the Giants came back with a bigger offer probably like, I don't know, 30 minutes after that phone call."
Bonds said he loved the pressure of New York, calling Yankee Stadium "the biggest stage in baseball." Had he signed with the Yankees, Bonds agreed that he would have hit 800 home runs with the stadium’s short porch in right field.
"For sure," he said. "It's short and I'm a pull hitter. So, yeah."
Instead, he landed in San Francisco, winning a pair of batting titles and four straight MVP awards from 2001 to 2004.
Bonds discussed baseball's three-outcome era where batting averages are sacrificed in favor of trying to hit home runs. He said it "makes my heart hurt" but the sport has accepted it and players have adapted accordingly.
"If you told me I could hit .220 and I’m gonna make $200 million, that's been accepted," Bonds said. "In my time of playing baseball, you don't hit almost .300, you're not gonna be in Major League Baseball. You're gonna be in the minor leagues. So, it's not the players' fault."
Bonds said his job as a baseball player wasn't to hit home runs, it was to get on base and help his teammates. That, Bonds added, is what made him a good teammate on the field.
"Like I try to tell everybody, I was not the best teammate in the locker room, by far none," Bonds said. "I didn't like anybody in the locker room, I wanted to be by myself. But on the baseball field I was the best because I could have swung at everything. I had opportunities to swing and not give Jeff Kent or the next person behind me the opportunity and being on that field, it's your job to keep that line moving and keep the pressure on your opponent."
The pressure of trying to hit a record-matching home run in front of New York fans might have impacted Judge as the Yankees capped a six-game homestand Sunday. Judge, who was set to lead off the seventh inning had Sunday's game resumed, now might hit No. 61 north of the border, as the Yankees open a three-game set with the Blue Jays in Toronto.
For Bonds and his milestones, there was no place like home as he hit his 500th, 600th, 700th and 756th home runs in San Francisco...as well as his 71st, 72nd and 73rd in 2001.
"Every one of my milestones were in San Francisco at home," Bonds said. "I wanted my hometown fans to watch, and everyone else could watch it on TV. But I wanted to do everything at home."