It’s no wonder, then, that Giants slugger Barry Bonds made it a point to hit yet another historic homerun at the ballpark on 24 Willie Mays Plaza, a place where Bonds and his fans have developed a lovefest since the park’s opening in 2000.
It surely set the perfect stage for yet another milestone by the future Hall-of-Famer.
With San Francisco trailing 6-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Colorado Rockies starter Byung-Hyun Kim threw a 3-2 fastball down Bonds wheelhouse and the Giants All-Star turned on the pitch, depositing the no-doubt-about-it shot into the centerfield bleachers, 445 feet from home plate.
Orange and black streamers then fell from the upper deck, fireworks emanated from the scoreboard thrusts in centerfield and hordes of Giants fans jumped and danced in unison as Bonds further secured a spot into baseball immortality when he hit precious No. 715.
“Right at home is my biggest fan base,” the 7-time National League MVP said. “This is where I was raised and where my history started. This is where my godfather (Willie Mays) played, my father (Bobby Bonds) played and where I get to play. There’s nothing better than doing it in front of these fans. It’s just a wonderful feeling.”
Bonds knew the feeling immediately. As soon as he connected for No. 715, he clapped his hands emphatically before going into his customary homerun trot, and was greeted at home plate by his 16-year-old son, Nikolai.
He then received hugs and high fives from his teammates in the dugout before coming out for an unprecedented two curtain calls.
“I knew it was gone. Definitely. There was no doubt,” Bonds said. “I had to keep the tradition alive. It belongs here (in San Francisco).”
The Giants displayed the tradition on the left field fence by unveiling a new logo that features No. 715 with a Golden Gate Bridge graphic, but Bonds did not immediately see it because he was receiving a congratulatory hug from Ed Montague, the longtime umpire who was manning second base Sunday afternoon.
It was a rare sight to see such emotional support from the boys in blue, especially toward a controversial star like Bonds.
San Francisco (26-24) couldn’t help support Bonds or starter Jamey Wright (5-4), for that matter, as the team failed to come back against the Rockies. Colorado (26-24) used a six-run fourth inning and several squandered opportunities by the Giants (SF hit into three rally-killing double plays in the first three innings) to salvage the rubber game, 6-3.
Rockies starter Byung-Hyun Kim (3-2) was credited with the victory, but not before becoming the 421st different pitcher to give up the long ball to Bonds. Kim is now 2-1 with a 2.32 ERA in 15 career appearances at the ballpark on the shores of McCovey Cove.
After the game, Bonds intimated at the post-game press conference that he’s relieved he has finally surpassed slugger Babe Ruth for second on the all-time homerun list.
“It was overwhelming,” Bonds said as he joked that most of the media, specifically ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez, would finally be out the door. “It really drains you. It’s really hard.”
Despite the difficulty of the homerun chase and media circus, Bonds did not rule out chasing Hank Aaron for No. 1 on the all-time list at 755 homeruns.
“If you keep playing long enough, anything is possible,” Bonds said, sporting his latest marketing campaign, a black 715 shirt with gold lettering and matching baseball cap. “I'd like to win a World Series and be home run king. I'd like to do both. I would take a World Series first.”
The lucky fan who caught the historic homerun ball probably felt like he won the World Series himself.
Thirty-eight-year-old Andrew Morbitzer saw the ball literally drop from the heavens when it ricocheted from the bleachers, bounced off the concession stands roof in centerfield, and finally landed in his hands.
Morbitzer, a marketing director for Intuit in Mountain View, Calif., was standing in line to purchase a hot dog and beer for his newly-wed wife, when the lucky ball found its way to him.
“It’s just nice to be a small part of a big day,” said Morbitzer, who was married in Vail, Colo., on Labor Day weekend but fortunately moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area just in time.
The Giants raised a champagne toast to Bonds accomplishment in the team clubhouse following the contest, despite the sour note of a loss to the division-rival Rockies.
“I can’t compare this (feat),” said Bonds, who was otherwise grateful of the support from his teammates. “Willie is my godfather, so he takes precedence over anyone. It was more meaningful to hit 660.”
However, No. 715 was definitely meaningful to Bonds son, Nikolai, as he was able to witness his father pass the Babe in his presence.
“My son has finals next week and he told me last night to make my promise to hit the homerun today because he didn’t want to watch it on TV,” Bonds said. “I didn’t want to disappoint my son so he owes me a great finals next week.”
The Giants head out East with a test of their own, in the form of a six-game road trip to Florida, before stopping in New York.
“It's not every day you see a guy hit 700 home runs, it's not every day you see a guy become the second all-time home run hitter. It's something special. I wish I had the ball.”
Game Notes: Shortstop Omar Vizquel got Sunday off, which coincidentally was Omar Vizquel Bobblehead Day. The Giants gave away the uber-awesome souvenirs to first 20,000 fans. … Second baseman Ray Durham was a late scratch due to flu-like symptoms. Rookie Kevin Frandsen took his place on the field and batted eighth in the lineup. … Manager Felipe Alou indicated that Bonds may get the day off Monday after having to travel across the country to Florida. … Rookie Jonathan Sanchez made an impressive major-league debut, retiring the side in order in the seventh.
SFDugout.com player of the game: Without a doubt, the player of the game goes to Barry Lamar Bonds. Despite the tumultuous publicity he has been receiving and the widespread scapegoating that follows, Bonds continues to persevere in the face of adversity. Barry!... Barry! … Barry!
Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.
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