Barry Bonds became the first player to win four Most Valuable Player Awards, capping a record-breaking season in which his 73 home runs set the biggest mark of all.
The 37-year-old outfielder, who hit .328 with 137 RBIs for the San Francisco Giants, received 30 of 32 first-place ballots and 438 points in voting for the National League award announced Monday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
"Once you've won it a few times, the standards for you are very high," Bonds said. "It's very difficult to achieve it again."
Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa got the other two first-place votes and finished second with 278 points, followed by Arizona outfielder Luis Gonzalez (261) and St. Louis infielder-outfielder Albert Pujols (222), who became the first NL rookie to finish as high as fourth since pitcher Joe Black was third in 1952.
Bonds, who became a free agent after the World Series, also won the MVP award for Pittsburgh in 1990 and 1992 and for the Giants in 1993. He finished second to Atlanta's Terry Pendleton in 1991 and to San Francisco's Jeff Kent last year.
The only other three-time winners were Roy Campanella, Stan Musial and Mike Schmidt in the NL, and Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle in the American League.
"I don't think you could ever dream of surpassing players of that stature. There are no words for it," Bonds said. "I'm just grateful."
Bonds broke two of Babe Ruth's records last season, walking 177 times - seven more than Ruth's total in 1923 - and finishing with an .863 slugging percentage, 16 points higher than Ruth's percentage in 1920. Bonds has 567 career homers, seventh on the career list.
He also broke the season home run of 70 set three years ago by Mark McGwire.
Sosa, who hit .328 last season with 64 homers and a major league-leading 160 RBIs, got the first-place votes of Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune and Mike Kiley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
It is not yet clear how much of an effort the Giants will make to retain Bonds, who has failed to lead them to the World Series. The last reigning MVP to change teams was Bonds, who left Pittsburgh in 1992 to sign with San Francisco.
"My agent and the Giants have talked one time," Bonds said. "My agent said it was a good conversation. That's all I know about it."
Pujols had the highest finish by a rookie in either league since 1975, when Fred Lynn was voted the AL MVP and Boston teammate Jim Rice finished third. The only other rookie to finish higher than Pujols was Boston Braves shortstop Alvin Dark, third in 1948.
Bonds gets a $100,000 bonus for winning the award, while Sosa gets $100,000 for finishing second.
The American League MVP is announced Tuesday.
© MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
© 2001 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.