No, the guy in The Natural never flaunted a diamond-and-gold earring in his left lobe. But he never earned $4.7 million a year playing outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates either. The 6’1″ Bonds, 28 and one of the league’s most talented—and valuable—players, has always been gazelle swift; lately he has sprouted home-run muscle by way of an iron-pumping regimen that’s beefed him up to 195 lbs. But enough statistics. Bonds’s most appealing attribute is that stadium-illuminating smile he flashes in moments of triumph.
“I never was keyed up about looks,” says the son of former all-star Bobby Bonds (and godson of Willie Mays). The Californian “grew up thinking I was ugly. I never had problems dating, but I never dated the most popular or prettiest girl.” Until, that is, he met one “who almost looks like Paula Abdul.” He and Sun Branco, now 27, wed in 1988 and are parents to Nikolai, 2, and Shikari, 1. Off the field, when not with his family, Bonds can be prickly, even with the manager and teammates whom he’s helped to capture consecutive divisional titles. But he can live with his reputation for leading the league in attitude: “As long as my wife thinks I’m beautiful, it doesn’t matter if no one else thinks so.”