Barry Bonds remembers Hank Aaron as ‘icon’ after complicated history

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The man who supplanted Hank Aaron as MLB’s home run king, albeit in a tainted fashion, hasn’t forgotten what Aaron did for him and the game.

After news broke Friday of Aaron’s death at the age of 86, Barry Bonds sent his thoughts and thanks to a “true baseball legend.”

“I want to send my heartfelt and warmest condolences to the Aaron family on their loss today,” Bonds wrote in a statement posted to his Twitter account. “I was lucky enough to spend time with Hank on several occasions during my career and have always had the deepest respect and admiration for all that he did both on and off the field. He is an icon, a legend and a true hero to so many, who will forever be missed.

“Hank Aaron — thank you for everything you ever taught us, for being a trailblazer through adversity and setting an example for all of us African American ball players who came after you. Being able to grow up and have the idols and role models I did, help shape me for a future I could have never dreamed of. Hank’s passing will be felt by all of us who love the game and his impact will forever be cemented in my heart.”

Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs in 1974 before Bonds broke Aaron’s record of 755 in 2007, finishing with 762. But Bonds’ record has been stained by his steroid use and the controversy that came with his connection to the BALCO scandal.

Still, Aaron said in an NBC “Today Show” interview last February that he still considered Bonds to be the home run king and that PED users belonged in the Hall of Fame.

“Barry was a terrific ballplayer,” Aaron said. “I knew Barry’s father very well and I got to know Barry a little bit. It’s kind of hard for me to digest and come to realize that Barry cheated in the home runs, cheated in this and that.

“We’ve had so many cheaters that have made the Hall of Fame and I don’t see any reason why Barry or any of the rest of them shouldn’t make it.”

Aaron was not in attendance when Bonds broke his home run record on Aug. 7, 2007, but he did record a message that aired on the big screen at AT&T Park shortly after Bonds hit his 756th home run.

“I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds on becoming baseball’s career home run leader,” Aaron said in the recorded video. “It is a great accomplishment which required skill, longevity, and determination.

“Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years. I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement. My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams.”

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