Bonds gets closer with 68th HR

Giants star 2 behind McGwire's record 70 after shot in second

Middlebrook allows another

R. Henderson gets hit, no runs, closing in on milestones

September 29, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO - The Hall of Fame careers of Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson have converged this weekend at Pacific Bell Park, where every inning of the three-game series between the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres seems to burst with historical significance.

Bonds continued to chip away at Mark McGwire's single-season home run record last night with his 68th of the season in a 10-5 Giants victory, the long homer coming just one inning after he broke Big Mac's National League record for walks with his 163rd of the year.

The San Francisco Giants superstar launched a 3-0 pitch from San Diego Padres rookie Jason Middlebrook deep into the center-field seats to pull within two homers of a record that seemed untouchable after McGwire hit 70 homers in 1998.

Middlebrook, who allowed Nos. 65 and 66 at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, appeared determined to pitch around Bonds all night. He handed him the record-setting walk in the first inning and fell behind quickly in Bonds' second trip to the plate, but left one fat and watched helplessly as the ball soared into the bleachers.

Bonds reacted with unusual emotion as he crossed home plate, pointing with both hands toward the sky and jumping into the air. He had revealed before the game that a close friend and sometime bodyguard - 37-year-old Franklin Bradley - died on Thursday during abdominal surgery.

"One of my friends, I lost yesterday," Bonds said. "So it kind of added a little bit [of focus]."

He would go on to drive in three runs in the lopsided win, setting a new career high with 131 RBIs for the season.

Henderson also has a couple of milestones in sight. The 42-year-old Padres outfielder entered the series needing to score just two runs to pass Detroit Tigers legend Ty Cobb and become baseball's all-time leader in that department. He also showed up here five hits away from joining the exclusive 3,000-hit club.

Cobb remained safe for at least one more game, but Henderson did single in the fifth inning to continue the countdown to 3,000 hits.

The run record will complete a historical hat trick for Henderson, who already holds the all-time records for stolen bases and walks. He clearly views it - even in advance - as the crowning achievement of his career.

"This means more to me because it's really a team record," Henderson said before yesterday's game. "The stolen base record, that's really an individual record. This is a team record, because I have to depend on my teammates."

Both Henderson and Bonds are right where they want to be for the celebration of their greatest individual accomplishments. Henderson grew up just across the Oakland Bay Bridge and spent much of his career with the Oakland Athletics. Bonds is the son of Giants star Bobby Bonds and the godson of Giants legend Willie Mays.

Bonds, however, has had a tough time embracing the home run chase, especially in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks that made the whole concept seem trivial. He was warming up to it again this week when tragedy struck closer to home. He was clearly shaken by the death of Bradley and had to fight back tears speaking about it.

"I really haven't had time to think about anything," he said, "and every time I want to enjoy it for a minute, something else happens."

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