`Big Man' Bonds carves his legend in Series

October 24, 2002|By LAURA VECSEY

SAN FRANCISCO - Hail, Barry. The Big Man's World Series moments are already destined to live in a blaze of lightning-flash glory - even if his sluggish teammates never follow their leader.

Too bad The Big Man doesn't pitch. The way Barry Bonds is locked in this October, he'd register 27 outs on 27 pitches, giving the Giants a jolt where they need it: stopping the Anaheim Angels' hit parade.

Batting a team-leading .314 (11-for-35) with 15 runs, 14 RBIs and a postseason-record seven home runs, The Big Man is the super model of efficiency. He has been walked 20 times, tying Gary Sheffield's 1997 playoff record, which means Bonds is basically automatic, clocking almost every single strike he sees for epic homers.

The Big Man has already carved his World Series legend.

Last night, in a goofy little gimmick sponsored by a credit card company, the Barry Bonds World Series gave way for a few corporate minutes to a paid-for parade of baseball's greatest moments. Thirty moments, lots of hype, millions in advertising dollars for another manufactured event. Give us Barry ... or any of the Angels who is hitting over .300 in this Series, which is everyone except left fielder Garret Anderson and the Rally Monkey.

That Cal Ripken's sparkling, magical night in 1995 was voted the greatest moment in baseball is less a testament to Ripken's Iron Man tenacity than it is insight into the minds of young voters. In other words, Internet savvy does not necessarily make youthful TV watchers and Web surfers the most informed judges of history.

Jackie Robinson not No. 1? No Bobby Thomson? Enough said.

No matter, really. It was all for fun, not for official Hall of Fame induction validation, which explains how MasterCard bought Pete "He Bet On Baseball, But He Belongs In the Hall" Rose's way into the World Series. Make him tell the truth, then put him in the Hall already, commissioner.

Ripken might have stuck around the Baltimore infield for 2,131 consecutive games, but last night, the Orioles' living legend came and left Pacific Bell Park in a flash. That's not unlike one of the electrically charged home run jerks that another living legend (Bonds) has produced three times in three games of this World Series.

Bonds alone was unable to stop the Angels from taking an impressive 2-1 lead into Game 4 last night. This team isn't confident so much as it is single-minded about rapping out hit after hit.

"The idea is to keep pressing, to keep pouring it on as much as you can, regardless of the score," Angels center fielder Darin Erstad explained.

"You can't lay back - that's like playing prevent defense in football. It's not a good thing to do. So, if anything, we probably up our intensity a little bit, our killer instinct. We don't call it that, but we understand that it's pretty important to put runs in the board."

The Angels are doing everything in their power to seize this World Series stage. David Eckstein, Erstad, Troy Glaus, Tim Salmon, Scott Spiezio and Adam Kennedy are leading an offense batting .353. They've batted around three times already in this Series, including back-to-back attacks that knocked starting pitcher Livan Hernandez out after 3 2/3 innings in Game 3 Tuesday night.

Still, for all their spunk, the Angels are the supporting cast in this Series - even if they win it. It is no slight against them, because they are bringing it to the Giants. But what Bonds has done is nothing short of myth-making.

No player has so controlled the tone and tempo the way Bonds is doing. No slugger has gone it so alone - sorry Benito Santiago and Jeff Kent, but Bonds toils in nothing close to resembling Murderer's Row.

Bonds has no Lou Gehrig, like Babe Ruth did. He has no Roger Maris, as Mickey Mantle did. He has already done more damage in three World Series games - turning the occasional strike that comes his way into NASA-like experiments - than Ted Williams.

It was a shame the Angels pummeled Hernandez and took an 8-1 lead in the fourth inning in Game 3. More reason for people to click away from this low-rated, all-California Series.

Too bad, since in the fifth inning of Game 3, The Big Man sauntered up to the plate and walloped yet another epic home run. This one put Bonds in the record books. With Kent on first, Bonds skied a 1-1 offering from Angels starting pitcher Ramon Ortiz up into the heavy marine air before the white orb re-entered the atmosphere and landed over the fence in straight-away center field, 437 feet away.

It was a mere chip shot for The Big Man, at least when you consider that the 485-foot rocket Bonds cranked out of Edison International Field in the ninth inning of Game 2 had already been committed to the hyperbolic annals of baseball legend.

People are talking about Bonds' World Series home runs with the same sort of spooky reverence and disbelief as they talk about Loch Ness monster or the Shroud of Turin. Did we really see what we saw?

With that rocket in Game 3, Bonds connected for homers in the first three Series games, becoming the second player to do so (after Hank Bauer of the 1958 Yankees) and the first to do it in the first three Series games of his career.

Sounds like a moment for the ages - and future memorable moment voters.

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