Miller: Barry Bonds, Pac-Man, and the greatest baseball fun fact of all time

From Sam Miller at on March 27, 2017:

Baseball’s greatest fun fact was born in three stages: on the last day of the first half of the 2004 season, on the last day of the 2004 season and, many years later, when a young man was kicking stones along the river bank and discovered it half-buried by mud and shrubs. It is one part record, one part curiosity and one part magic trick. Fittingly, it concerns Barry Bonds, and as a scholar of Barry Bonds fun facts, it is my opinion that it will never be topped.

On July 10, 2004, Brandon Webb and the Arizona Diamondbacks faced Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants. In the first inning, Webb intentionally walked Bonds with a runner on second, and Bonds broke the all-time record (set by Bonds, in 2002) for intentional walks in a season. In the third, Webb intentionally walked him again, and in the seventh he intentionally walked him a third time. In between, Bonds singled. His batting line that day was simultaneously extraordinary and, by the expectations of Bonds’ season, typical: 1-for-1, three intentional walks. His OPS heading into the All-Star break was 1.421.

That’s the highest first-half OPS a batter has ever had. The second best first-half OPS ever is 60 points lower, produced by Babe Ruth 96 years ago; it’s followed by two more Babe Ruth performances and another Barry Bonds first half. There are all sorts of incredible ways of viewing what Bonds had done in 77 first-half games that season: He had 131 walks, a first-half figure only three batters — Jose Bautista, Joey Votto (twice) and Bonds again — have topped in a full season since. He had 71 first-half intentional walks, which is 26 more than any non-Bonds hitter has ever produced in a full season, before or since. His on-base percentage was .628, which is 158 points higher than any non-Bonds has produced in a full season since, and more than 70 points higher than the all-time non-Bonds record for a full season. There is always a best player in baseball, but Bonds at the time lived outside those rankings, because what he was doing wasn’t baseball. Teams refused to engage, in a way that had no precedent and would have no sequel.

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Originally published: March 27, 2017. Last Updated: March 27, 2017.