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Archive for Monday, May 22, 2006

Bonds humbled by achievement

May 22, 2006

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— Barry Bonds sat at a makeshift podium inside the Raiders locker room at McAfee Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, his rendezvous with Babe Ruth barely more than three hours old. He sounded as he's rarely sounded during his ascent toward history.

Asked to express his emotions after finally catching the Bambino, after hitting career home run No. 714 - the last home run he'll hit with anyone between him and Hank Aaron - Bonds struggled to find the appropriate words.

"I don't really know right now," he said. "I don't know how to express it at the moment, because it's today. It's overwhelming really. Just overwhelming. I'm just ... overwhelmed."

In that sense, baseball's latest milestone was everything it should be. The magnitude of The Moment seemed to reduce one of the game's cockiest individuals into a humble one, and it added appreciation to the list of conflicting emotions surrounding it.

That it also helped the Giants win a game - 4-2 in 10 innings over the A's - and break a four-game losing streak at the Coliseum was practically an afterthought.

"I like the fact that the ball was crushed," Giants manager Felipe Alou said after watching Ray Durham and Steve Finley break a 2-2 tie with a single and sacrifice fly against A's reliever Steve Karsay. "People can say his power is gone and all that ... but that ball was hit by a slugger who's been hitting the ball like that all of his life."


San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, right, embraces his son, Nikolai, after hitting his 714th career home run. Bonds tied Babe Ruth for second on the all-time career home run list Saturday in Oakland, Calif.

San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, right, embraces his son, Nikolai, after hitting his 714th career home run. Bonds tied Babe Ruth for second on the all-time career home run list Saturday in Oakland, Calif.

Not recently, however. Bonds had mustered only four hits, three of them singles, in 40 plate appearances and nine games since connecting for No. 713 in Philadelphia on May 7, and he struck out to finish off the A's 1-0 win on Friday. He seemed weighed down by his 41-year-old legs, constant media scrutiny and the scarcity of quality pitches.

But at 1:32 p.m., he turned on a 1-1 fastball by A's starter Brad Halsey and knocked it about seven rows deep into the stands in right-center field. It tied Bonds with Ruth for second place on baseball's all-time list and left him 41 short of tying Aaron's all-time mark of 755. It also tied the contest 1-1 with nobody out in the second inning and put Halsey in a select group that includes Jack Billingham and Guy Bush, the only other pitchers to allow someone's 714th home run.

"Obviously, you guys think it's a pretty good deal," said Halsey, the record 420th pitcher to serve up a Bonds blast. "It's just a home run that I gave up."

The home run was caught on the fly by Pleasanton's Tyler Snyder, 19, whom A's officials said left before the game concluded. Some reporters relayed the news to Bonds that Snyder is not a Bonds fan and had mixed emotions about winding up with 714.

"If he doesn't like me, give me the ball," Bonds said.

If anything, Bonds got a good look at it before it disappeared into Snyder's glove. He stood briefly in the box after making contact, then pointed to his wife and two daughters sitting behind the first-base dugout. By the time his trot had reached second base, the scattering of boos had been drowned out by cheers, and the Giants had streamed out of the dugout to await his arrival.

"A lot of guys in here have been waiting for it to happen, because it's history," said teammate Mark Sweeney, one of Bonds' closest friends on the Giants. "A lot of guys in here respect the game and its history, so it's a pretty exciting moment. Not only honoring Barry, but Babe Ruth, too, for what he had done."

Upon touching home plate, Bonds kissed his fingers, pointed to the sky, hugged his son Nikolai and soaked in a standing ovation from the crowd of 35,077. He doffed his helmet once, blew a kiss to his family, exchanged hugs with teammates, then disappeared into the dugout. A few seconds later, he emerged to a curtain call.

"It's just great," Bonds said. "My teammates have been wonderful. I can't say enough about how wonderful they've been. ... I'm just glad it happened in the Bay. The East Bay, West Bay, whatever, just as long as it was here."

The question now is whether the weight lifted by hitting No. 714 will make home runs 715 and beyond easier to obtain.

Bonds admitted afterward that the scrutiny of The Chase has been difficult for him. But with 755 in the distance, he said he now can have fun. And he can spend plenty of time analyzing his place in history.

"This is a great accomplishment, because of Babe Ruth and what he brought to baseball," Bonds said. "He brought all of this to the game, and I'm just glad the rest of us have been able to add our two cents."

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