714

Bonds' homer ends wait, ties Ruth for 2nd

The Game

May 21, 2006|By TIM BROWN | TIM BROWN,LOS ANGELES TIMES

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Seven-fourteen came with a home-plate hug for his son, blown kisses for his wife and daughter, and a curtain call ovation in a rival ballpark, from adversarial fans.

Barry Bonds, a controversial figure whose alleged steroid use has raised debate over the legitimacy of the latter part of his career, homered into the right-field seats and tied Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time home run list yesterday in the San Francisco Giants' 4-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics in 10 innings at McAfee Coliseum.

His 714th career home run placed him behind only Hank Aaron, who hit 755 home runs from 1954 to 1976. Ruth, an iconic figure with the New York Yankees who was born in Baltimore, held the record from 1921 until Aaron passed him April 8, 1974.

Bonds hit the homer in his 41st plate appearance since he hit No. 713.

On the third pitch of the second inning from A's left-hander Brad Halsey, Bonds turned on a fastball and sent a baseball marked 71 - for the purpose of authenticity - soaring toward right field. The pro-A's crowd roared in delight as Bonds dropped his bat and pointed to family members seated behind the first base dugout.

Bonds, 41, playing on an arthritic right knee and with bone spurs in his left elbow, has hit six home runs this season. The latest came as the Giants' designated hitter, the ninth start of his career as a DH, and while batting cleanup. The ball was caught in the right-field seats by Tyler Snyder, 19, of nearby Pleasanton.

Bonds arrived at the plate and kissed his son, Nikolai, a team batboy who was holding his father's bat, on the cheek.

Seven weeks into his 21st big league season, Bonds had matched Ruth, and the relief was evident. Although Bonds had once been dismissive of Ruth and those who admire him, in recent months he had lauded The Babe and his accomplishments.

Nearly three years ago, Bonds had said, "Seven-fifty-five isn't a number that's always caught my eye. The only number I'm concerned with is Babe Ruth's. As a left-handed hitter, I wiped him out. That's it. And in the baseball world, Babe Ruth's everything, right? I got his [single season] slugging percentage, I got him on on-base, I got him on walks and then I'll take his [lifetime] home run record and that's it. Don't talk about him no more."

He had since softened that view, calling Ruth "a great baseball player."

Bonds, who will be 42 in July, hit his first home run on June 4, 1986, as a wiry rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates, a year after being drafted out of Arizona State. He played seven seasons in Pittsburgh, where he established himself as a five-tool player, won two of his seven Most Valuable Player awards and began a run of 13 All-Star Games and eight Gold Glove awards.

He did not hit more than 34 home runs in a season, however, until 1993, his first in San Francisco, when he had 46 home runs, drove in 123 runs, batted .336 and again was the league MVP.

And so began a love affair between Bonds, the son of a former Giants favorite, raised in the Candlestick Park clubhouse and schooled in nearby San Mateo, and San Francisco.

Bonds is the son of Bobby Bonds, a power-and-speed threat in a 14-year career in which he hit 332 home runs and stole 461 bases.

When Barry signed with the Giants as a free agent before the 1993 season, the club hired Bobby as a coach. He served through the 1996 season and died at 57 in August 2003. Bonds signed two more contracts with the Giants, the second of which expires after this season.

He hit at least 40 home runs four times in his first eight seasons in San Francisco, and in 2001 he hit 73, breaking the single-season record of 70 set by Mark McGwire three years before. He followed that with seasons of 46, 45 and 45 home runs, for four consecutive MVP seasons.

Bonds apparently has passed drug tests administered by baseball or its agents since the 2004 season. In March, commissioner Bud Selig ordered a broad investigation of steroids in baseball. He appointed former Sen. Majority Leader George Mitchell to lead the inquiry. As of this week Mitchell had not contacted Bonds or his representatives.

Tim Brown writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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