Babe Ruth was a real man. He didn't need steriods to hit the ball out of the park...just bloody steaks, booze like it was water and more tail than Frank Sinatra could've gotten in two lifetimes.
And, he didn't have the advantage afforded Bonds (or Aaron for that matter) by newer technology. He swung a telephone pole at a ball stuffed with feathers and cotton candy. With today's lighter, faster bat and tightly wound balls, Ruth might well have hit over 1000 homeruns.
To be honest, steroids are only part of the equation. Rule changes, improved equipment and improvements in field (pitch...for you Brits) technology play a huge part as well. Jim Brown held the NFL rushing record for over twenty years before it was broken by Walter Payton. Jim Brown spent nine years amassing over 12,000 yards rushing on a chewed up grass field in Cleveland in a league where it was perfectly alright to grab a player's facemask in order to make a tackle. Walter Payton ran on astroturf in a league where grabbing his facemask meant a fifteen yard penalty and an automatic first down.
I doubt Barry Sanders would have ever gotten anywhere near Jim Brown's record had he played in the 1950s and 60s. Lightning quick cuts are a hell of a lot easier on astroturf than they are on loose dirt, spray painted green. All that's without even mentioning rules changes as far as pass interference goes. When Jim Brown played, it was often against five man fronts and three linebackers. Eight men in the box wasn't some fancy way to stop the run, but simply the way you played defense. Of course, when Jim Brown played, he was something of an anomaly. At 6' 2" and about 220#s, he was as big, if not bigger, than most linebackers. And, he was usually the fastest man on the field. But then, Jim Brown gained all of his yards during twelve game seasons. Walter Payton played in an era of transition from 14 game to 16 game seasons, most of them in the latter. Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith never played a season that didn't have 16 games.
The more you look at sports over time, the easier it is to see places to put the asteriks.
What would Juan Manuel Fangio or A.J. Foyt have done with cars of today? Perhaps Foyt would have won twice as many Indy 500s, Daytona 500s (and 24 Hours of) and 24 Hours of LeMans titles (not to mention a few more Formula One races) with todays technology? Would Fangio's Formula One record ever been eclipsed? Perhaps...perhaps not. Perhaps today's technology would have negated the cunning and raw strength required to get the racecars of yesterday around the track.
How good would George Best be with today's perfectly manicured pitches, feather light shoes, balls that are actually round and LITE beer?
As for the original question, I don't think it really matters if an asterik is placed next to his name in the record books or not, because 20 or 30 years from now, there'll be some kid with arms as big as my thighs, jacked up on some sort of shit that medical science hasn't even thought of breaking the yearly homerun record every year and we'll harken back to the good ol' days of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire.
This is fun Randy! Bravo on a great thread idea.