A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Simply The Best !
SAN FRANCISCO _Barry Bonds Became the new Homerun King. Following in Rickey Henderson’s foot steps, Bonds wasted no time claiming history for himself Friday, hitting No. 71 and ending Mark McGwire’s reign just one night after he tied baseball’s most glamorous record.
That was the first inning. In the third, almost for emphasis, he hit No. 72.
Bonds, however, was in no mood to celebrate because his San Francisco Giants were eliminated from postseason contention with an 11-10 loss to Los Angeles.
“It’s just unfortunate we came up short,” he said. “It was a great year all the way around.”
Many in the sellout crowd of 41,730 stayed for the postgame ceremony, despite the late hour. Friday’s game lasted 4 hours, 27 minutes, the longest nine-inning game in major league history.
It was already early Saturday when the festivities got under way.
The Giants hadn’t planned on Bonds homering twice — a sign on a podium erected on the infield read “Barry Bonds 71 Home Runs.”
Bonds choked up as the fans chanted his name.
“We’ve come a long way. We’ve had our ups and downs. Thank you,” he said, before burying his face in his hands and bursting into tears.
Bonds’ record-breaker came at Pacific Bell Park on a tailing fastball from Chan Ho Park and landed in right-center.
Bonds connected on a 1-0 pitch to break the mark that McGwire set a mere three years ago. It came on his first swing since hitting No. 70 in Houston’s Enron Field off rookie Wilfredo Rodriguez. Both homers arced high over the field in the same direction.
After hitting his 442-foot shot, an elated Bonds trotted around the bases and was mobbed by his teammates at the plate and his 11-year-old son, Nikolai — much the same scene that played out in Houston.
Bonds slipped into the dugout for a short time and talked by cell phone with his father, former major leaguer Bobby, before returning to the field.
As a “71″ flashed on the scoreboard and fireworks soared above the outfield, Bonds hugged his wife, Liz, and daughter Aisha, as well as his mother, Pat.
They were barely back in the stands before the crowd went crazy again. Bonds hit No. 72 off Park on a 1-1 count, the ball just clearing the wall in center field at the 404-foot mark. The fans jumped to their feet, chanting “Barry! Barry!”
Until Big Mac came along, Roger Maris’ record of 61 had stood for 37 years. Before Maris came along, Babe Ruth’s record stood for 34 years. Now, Bonds has rewritten the record book after only three years — and he still has two games to go against the Dodgers.
In a neat twist, Bonds’ historic homer came at the same moment McGwire was approaching the plate at Busch Stadium in St. Louis where the Cards played Houston.
The Busch scoreboard briefly flashed Bonds’ 71, but it was gone in a blink and most fans didn’t even notice.
When the popular McGwire hit his record-breaking 62nd homer in 1998, he was overrun by high-fives, hugs and handshakes all around the bases from the opposing Chicago Cubs and Sammy Sosa who challenged him for the mark.
In sharp contrast, Bonds — never the most likable player among fans, opponents and even some of his teammates — wasn’t embraced by any of the rival Dodgers.
Earlier this season, the Dodgers were infuriated when the Giants stopped the game at Pac Bell after Bonds hit his 500th home run against them.
This was Bonds’ sixth career home run in 38 at-bats against Park, who was pitching with a 5-0 lead and decided to go right after him — unlike the walkathon Bonds endured in Houston.
This also was Bonds’ 56th career multihomer game, and 10th of this season. He passed Jimmie Foxx for fifth on the career multihomer list.
Two giant banners were hoisted on either side of the video scoreboard reading “Bonds” and “71.” But the on-field celebrating was short, lasting just about five minutes.
Jerry Rose, 49, a season ticket-holder from Knight’s Landing, Calif., caught the ball on the fly.
“We’ve been coming to games forever,” Rose said.
And what will he do with the souvenir?
“We’ll keep it for a while and watch the game. The Giants need to win,” he said.
Earlier Friday, McGwire said he was rooting for Bonds to break the record.
“It’s a crazy number and we all thought it was crazy at the end of ’98,” McGwire said. “But now we’re looking at it like it’s not crazy. That’s just the way the game’s gone, there’s so much offense.”
Asked to comment on Bonds’ accomplishment, McGwire issued a statement through the team’s publicist, saying: “We just had a tough loss. Barry had his night. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.”
The 37-year-old Bonds was destined for baseball greatness from the day he was born.
He grew up in the company of giants, raised in major league clubhouses by his father, an All-Star outfielder, and spent time on the diamond with his godfather, Hall of Famer Willie Mays.
“As a kid, 5 years old, I remember saying to him, `Boy, get out of my locker,”‘ Mays said, drawing laughs from the crowd and Bonds during the postgame festivities.
“I want him to get to 75. I want him to put it where no one can get there. That’s what I want him to do,” he said.
When Giants owner Peter Magowan took the podium, the crowd shouted “Sign him! Sign him!” Bonds is eligible for free agency after this season.
Bobby Bonds was in Connecticut on Friday night for a golf tournament, but did see his son tie the record in Houston.
Commissioner Bud Selig, who also was in Houston for the tie, was in San Diego on Friday night to honor two players. Rickey Henderson of the Padres broke Ty Cobb’s runs record Thursday, and Tony Gwynn is retiring Sunday.
“Barry has demonstrated on a national stage why he is one of the greatest players of our generation,” Selig said.
Even before these last two days, Bonds’ season had been phenomenal.
Bonds became the 17th member of the exclusive 500-homer club on April 17 against the Dodgers.
On Sept. 9, Bonds hit No. 61, 62 and 63 at Coors Field in Colorado, surpassing Maris’ mark and giving him the most homers in a single season by a left-hander.
Since then, he has moved into seventh place on the all-time list with 566 home runs, two more than distant relative Reggie Jackson. Harmon Killebrew is in sixth place with 573.
The enigmatic slugger was playing on only about four hours of sleep. After swatting No. 70 on Thursday night, Bonds arrived in San Francisco early Friday, then attended the burial of close friend and former bodyguard Franklin Bradley.
Earlier this year, he lost an uncle and a cousin.
“You have to move on,” he said before the game. “That’s what they would want. That’s what you have to do.”
Bonds also has drawn 177 walks, breaking McGwire’s NL record of 162 and Babe Ruth’s major league mark of 170.
Bonds is a 10-time All-Star who could he headed to his record fourth MVP award. But he had never hit more than 49 home runs in a season, a feat he accomplished last year.
Choking up on his 34-inch, black maple bat, Bonds blossomed this season.