Barry Bonds hit his 755th home run last night, tying the legendary Hank Aaron atop the Major League Baseball career home run standings.
AP’s Janie McCauley:
With a short swing, a half stare and an emphatic clap of his hands, Barry Bonds rounded the bases. After so many days and so many tries, he had finally caught Hammerin’ Hank. “The hard part is over right now,” Bonds said.
High above the field in a private box, baseball commissioner Bud Selig was a reluctant witness to history. Choosing to overlook the steroid allegations that have dogged the San Francisco slugger, Selig watched Bonds tie Hank Aaron’s home run record – his mouth agape, hands stuffed in pockets and nary a cheer on his lips.
No. 755 was a strong shot for all the doubters, an opposite-field drive of 382 feet to left-center, moving Bonds within one swing of having baseball’s pinnacle of power all to himself. It came on a 2-1, 91 mph fastball Saturday night.
“This is the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my entire career,” he said. “I had rashes on my head, I felt like I was getting sick at times.”
And it was a long time coming. It had been eight days and 28 plate appearances since Bonds hit his 754th home run, and he came out for early batting practice Saturday, hoping to break his slump. He did it quickly, leading off the second inning.
“No matter what anybody thinks of the controversy surrounding this event, Mr. Bonds’ achievement is noteworthy and remarkable,” Selig said in a statement.
Quite so. Of course, the idea that 28 plate appearances constitutes “a long time” between home runs, let alone for a man in his 40s, says something about Bonds’ career.
And how’s this for supreme irony?
Bonds hit the tying homer off a former Giants draft pick who was suspended in 2005 for violating baseball’s minor league steroids policy.
ESPN’s Eric Neel:
At 7:29 p.m. local time Saturday, in the top of the second inning, Barry Bonds hit career home run No. 755 off Padres pitcher Clay Hensley. It was the first home run he had ever hit off Hensley, who became the 445th different major league pitcher to surrender a home run to Bonds.
It came on a 2-1 pitch, a 91-mph fastball. The swing was clean and true, hands back, head in, follow-through a study in grace and power. The crack of the bat was sharp, familiar, prodigious. The ball flew 382 feet on a low, sharp line to the opposite field, over the left-field fence and off the facing of the second deck of seats at San Diego’s Petco Park.
The sellout crowd came to its feet — some cheering, some booing. Bonds’ teammates burst from the dugout to await him at home plate, and he circled the bases quickly, clapping his hands on his way to first, and slapping a celebratory high-five with Giants coach Glenn Hoffman as he made his way around third base.
His 16-year-old son Nikolai stood at home, holding his father’s bat in his right hand, shifting from foot to foot. As Bonds crossed the plate, father and son shared a hug, whispering something in tight, touching foreheads, squeezing each other as if the room were their own and not a stadium full of 42,000 onlookers.
The crowd stayed standing, at full throat, cheers and applause still crashing over a steady undercurrent of boos, a blend of appreciation and allegation. Cameras flashed from every corner and level of the park as Bonds’ teammates, in an impromptu receiving line, led by manager Bruce Bochy and second baseman Ray Durham, congratulated him one by one, each man with his own hug and handshake, bench coach Ron Wotus with a kiss.
Bonds’ family, wife Liz and 7-year-old daughter Aisha Lynn, came to the foul-ball netting in the first row of seats behind home plate. Bonds reached through to hold their hands and leaned in to kiss them before making his way to a seat in the dugout.
There was no chanting, no “Barry Sucks.” People didn’t turn their backs or throw things. Adam Hughes, the lucky fan who caught the home run ball, held onto it. The crowd stood again in tribute (again with a mix of cheers and jeers) when Bonds took the field in the bottom of the inning. Bonds took off his cap and made a small wave toward the stands down the third-base line.
And that’s as it should be. Barry Bonds certainly isn’t the only slugger to use performance enhancers.
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