A Home Run to Remember

How a Giant's round-tripper and outward emotion captured the essence of baseball and fathers and sons

On August 23rd, reality intruded once again into the Giants' family with the passing of the remarkable former player, coach and consultant, Bobby Bonds. His son and future Hall-of-Famer, Barry, suffered what could have been the worst chapter of his 39-year old life as his father/friend/mentor died at the all-too-young age of 57. Yet through such anguish, Barry provided one of those rare moments for fans and non-fans of baseball to savor in his first game back from the bereavement list. With one swing of the bat, he showed us how baseball has the uncanny ability to transcend tragedy and remind us all that occasionally baseball is more than a game.

For those who missed it, a grieving Bonds stepped into the batter's box to face one of the best pitchers to ever throw a baseball, Randy Johnson. As Johnson's fireball blazed its way towards Barry's hands, Bonds seemingly channeled all of the pain, grief and anger into his mighty swing -- the swing his father taught him and fine-tuned throughout his career.

The homer was easily one of Bonds' more majestic shots of the year and not the usual blast that rockets into flailing fans' arms or bodies of water. This one soared so high that it seemed as if Barry wanted to put one high enough for his father to see and, perhaps, make Bobby proud of his son one last time.

After touching home, Bonds pointed to the heavens and high five'd himself as a tribute to his dad who (while serving as the Giants' first base coach a decade ago) would slap hands with Barry as he rounded first after going deep. And he wept. For a fleeting second, Barry allowed us all to glimpse into his heart that so many have wondered if he possessed at all. The aloofness, arrogance and stoicism that offended so many thin-skinned beat writers throughout his career were instantaneously erased by human tears. In that moment the man we saw wearing #25 on his back was not a superstar ballplayer; he was a son and a loving one at that.

Barry's level of professionalism and humanity struck a chord with this fan in his nearly heroic at-bat in the 4th inning of August 30th's game with the Diamondbacks. In a post-9/11 world, one may criticize the use of the word, "heroic", as applied to a baseball player. However, Bonds' emotional release after his 4th inning feat showed that what he accomplished was far more than just a homerun (albeit an historic one). In addition to capturing the essence of Bonds' honesty, passion and determination, it was a son's love for his dad. The death of Barry's father broke his heart, but his courage warmed mine.

While watching him wipe his tears, I couldn't help but reminisce about the memories I had as a boy with my father. While my Pop never wore a Giants uniform like Bobby Bonds (and no one EVER mistook me for Barry in appearance or ability), he took me out for games of catch, taught me to swing the lumber and hit grounders and pop-ups to me until we were both blue in the face. On Monday, September 8th, my wife will be giving birth to our first child, Charlie, and I thought of the memories that he and I have yet to share. One day I will hand my son his very own bat and glove and we'll play ball together. Like Barry and Bobby and my father and yours truly, my son and I will learn about each other through the greatest game man ever invented.

I have little doubt that Barry probably remembered moments with his own father like the ones Charlie and I will have as he circled the bases last Saturday and I can't thank him enough for letting his guard down for a mere second. His homerun and reaction were the very reasons why we call this game our national pastime. It is a salient symbol of tradition passed on from generation to generation, father to son. And through all of the bat corkings, escalating salaries and revenue sharing, an indisputable purity remains at the heart of the game. For a great number of us, baseball is a part of the family and - with events like the one that happened in Arizona a week ago - it is something to be held as sacred.

It's a gift that Bobby gave to his son thirty-nine years ago and one that I am ever so anxious to give to my little boy the first chance I get. And what happened in the 4th inning of the Giants 2-1 victory last week will be a moment that I'll be more than happy to share with Charlie.

Thank you, Barry. Thank you for your unequalled play and thank your for that instant of honesty and humanity. Your father would be proud. I know this father-to-be is.

Keith Larson writes for SFDugout.com because he's lived and died with the Giants since 1972. He welcomes all words of praise and insult at keith49ers@yahoo.com, but mentioning anything having to do with Game 6 is to be done with extreme caution.

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