SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds got what he wanted. So did the feds.
What should have been a year of fame and adulation for Bonds had equal parts of shame and condemnation.
As always, though, Bonds handled it his way: From that first day in spring training when he proclaimed himself up to the challenges that lie ahead; through the record-setting day in August when he hit No. 756 to become the all-time home run king; to that day in early December when he walked out of a federal courthouse in San Francisco after declaring himself innocent on charges leveled in a steroids investigation.
In a year that seemingly revolved around news that belonged on the front page instead of the sports page, the trail left by Bonds was voted Story of the Year by members of The Associated Press.
The Bonds saga received 1,352 points and 100 of the 146 first-place votes from sports editors and broadcasters.
Michael Vick pleading guilty to a federal charge he ran a dogfighting ring was second with 1,154 points; former NBA referee Tim Donaghy pleading guilty to two federal charges he bet on games he officiated and made calls affecting the point spread in those games was third with 836.
Florida winning both the NCAA football and men's basketball championships added a purely on-the-field entry at No. 4; Patriots coach Bill Belichick being fined $500,000 for videotaping opponents' signals, then leading New England to a perfect start completed the top five.
Because it was released in late December, the Mitchell Report, which detailed doping in baseball, was not on the list. However, it received 17 write-in votes for top story and was No. 9 overall.
Clearly, though, it was Bonds, the blemished home run king, who held everyone's attention the longest.
Aug. 7: "This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period," Bonds said just hours after hitting the home run that broke Hank Aaron's record.
Dec. 7: "I'm Barry Bonds," he told a judge as he stood with his hands clasped behind his back.
It's not over for Bonds, either. There's no telling how his case will turn out, or whether he'll play in 2008 or someday make the Hall of Fame.
"I think in many ways he is a challenge to all of us," former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent said. "On one hand we admire what he's done. The record. The performance. I think that the difficulty with Barry is we don't have all the facts. We don't know what went on. ... The last chapter has not been written."
From diehard fans to the casual observer, Bonds stirred debate about whether the most hallowed record in sports needed an asterisk.
Commissioner Bud Selig stood uncomfortably for the record-tying shot and was thousands of miles away from San Francisco when Bonds homered off Washington's Mike Bacsik for No. 756.
Aaron himself stayed away from the chase, opting instead to send a classy congratulatory message that was shown during a 10-minute, in-game tribute following the record-breaking home run.
Bonds appreciated the gesture, but in his news conference later, his mood wasn't always celebratory. When steroids came up in questions, he went on the defensive yet again, saying his record was legitimate.
No doubt Bonds was destined to be a target this year as he prepared to pass Aaron.
Fans, opponents, media and federal prosecutors took aim and, from the moment he arrived at Giants camp, Bonds took a defiant stance.
His attitude: Come get me.
And they did.
NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees fans showed Don Mattingly the love from the moment he took the lineup card to home plate Wednesday. Hiroki Kuroda, though, wasn't feeling nostalgic when facing his old team.
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