Barry Bonds hit his 598th home run tonight approximately a week after his 38th birthday. As Bonds soon becomes only the fourth man to hit 600- the other three being Aaron, Ruth, and Mays-and begins to catch up to the other three, there will be a great deal of press conjecturing as to whether or not Bonds is capable of supplanting these three legends. You will hear reporters spouting that Bonds cannot hold their jockstraps (maybe not, since they're in the Hall of Fame in the Underwear Division).
However, keep this in mind: Mays turned 38 in appropriately May of 1969. He hit a total of 13 that year and 73 from 1969 to the time he retired in 1973 (Bonds, of course, had 73 last year alone). Aaron had 116 home runs left in his tank at age 38, including one last 40-homer year at 39. Ruth like Aaron hit 34 home runs the year after turning 38. However, he only had three seasons and oddly 62 home runs left.
Bonds appears to be in better condition (give or take an injury or two) than those three at 38 and, given his recent success and the era in which he plays, should be able to surpass their totals (i.e. from 38 on). But one has to wonder given the rapid decline of these three immortals and Bonds recent string of injuries. Also, a strike now could really throw a crimp in his chances.
Also, had the 1994-95 strike not occurred, Bonds' total in '94 of 37 homers in 112 games and in '95 of 33 homers in 144 games (the full schedule for his team, the Giants, both years) projects out to 54 and 37 respectively based on 162 games. Bonds had played 158 games or more the three non-strike years between 1993 and 1997 inclusive, so his playing the entire schedule is not unrealistic. He would stand today at 619 with Mays easily within his grasp by the middle of 2003.