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|Magnificent 700: Hank, Babe, Barry!
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09/18/2004 12:14 AM ET
Magnificent 700: Hank, Babe, Barry!
Slugger now only 14 homers shy of Ruth's mark
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Words of wisdom sometimes come from the mouth of innocent Babes. Not Ruth, of course, but Aisha Bonds, the 5-year-old daughter of only the third man in Major League Baseball history to reach the 700-homer plateau.
"My dad's the best player," she said, charming a room full of media types after Barry Bonds hit his 700th homer in a 4-1 victory over the San Diego Padres on Sept. 17 at SBC Park, the spot where he has hit almost all of his milestone home runs.
Few who have watched in recent years would argue with the little one's assessment. Next up for the San Francisco Giants slugger is indeed Babe Ruth, who is just 14 homers away.
That one will be saved for next year and another time. Right now, there is a playoff spot to be won with 14 games remaining in a spine-tingling division and Wild Card race that includes the three National League California-based teams -- Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego -- for the first time.
"It's hard to fathom I've hit 700 home runs when I feel like I can still play and I can still contribute and still do things out there," said Bonds, who went 1-for-3 in the game, leaving his NL-leading batting average at .373. "I don't want to get satisfied and caught up in it all.
"I guess when I retire, I'll have a whole lot of time to reflect. Tell some old stories, probably a couple of lies here and there. Right now, I really want to focus on completing my career and hopefully getting back in the World Series."
Bonds smacked his historic shot into the front row of the left-field bleachers off Padres right-hander Jake Peavy to lead off the third inning. After hitting No. 699 at Arizona on Sunday, Bonds went homerless during a three-game series in Milwaukee before returning home and reaching the milestone on his second swing of the night.
Now all eyes will turn to Bonds' chase of the Great Bambino, the New York Yankees power hitter who finished his Hall of Fame career in 1935 with 714 homers.
Beyond that, Hank Aaron, the all-time leader, is 55 homers away at 755. At the earliest, the 40-year-old Bonds likely won't reach the Hammer until sometime in 2006, if Bonds remains healthy. Giants manager Felipe Alou said he expects Bonds to be relentless about getting there.
"Just before the game, I had a very strong feeling he was going to hit it," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "I don't know where it came from. He hit a pretty tough pitch, too, a back-door breaking ball. It was good to see him do it at home against a guy who has given us trouble all year."
Bond's wife, Liz, also said she wasn't her usually nervous self before the game.
"I was pretty calm; I don't know why," she said. "I didn't have the butterflies I normally do."
The homer was his 42nd of the season. Previously, Bonds had passed the 40-homer mark for the fifth straight season and eighth in his 19-year career, all with the Giants, tying the National League record held by Aaron. Ruth, who had 11 in the American League -- all with the Yankees -- holds the Major League mark.
Bonds' 700th homer came after he took a called strike from Peavy, who tried to slip another breaking pitch past the lefty-swinging slugger. Peavy had hit Bonds in the right shoulder during a three-run first inning. This time, Bonds hit it to the opposite field, disappointing dozens of fans floating in kayaks on the chilly waters of McCovey Cove over the right-field wall.
Bonds has hit 31 homers into the Cove. He has also homered off 414 pitchers in his career, but this was his third off Peavy and 79th against the Padres, Bonds' most against any team. It was measured at 392 feet and landed in the front row to the right of a mosaic the Giants unveiled after Bonds went out to his defensive position in the next inning, backed by the cheers of the sellout throng of 42,526.
The photographic montage depicts Bonds next to Ruth, Aaron and godfather Willie Mays behind the slogan "A Giant Among Legends."
At the same time, metallic streamers poured down from the rafters and fireworks were shot off above the scoreboard. To complete the gaudy display, a pyrotechnic "Bonds 700" was lit just above the center-field fence.
Steve Williams, a local fan from nearby Pacifica, Calif., picked up the loose ball from the bleachers and was quickly whisked off by security.
Asked what he intended do with it, Williams said: "What, are you crazy? I'm going to sell this thing."
Alou said the feat of reaching 700 homers ranks up there with the tops in MLB history.
"Hitting 700 homers is like a pitcher winning 400 games," Alou said.
Only two pitchers have done that -- Cy Young (511) and Walter Johnson (417).
Alou was in the dugout this past April 12 in San Francisco when Bonds tied Mays for third on the all-time list when he hit his 660th home run. He hit 661 the next day and has since left Mays in the dust.
Bonds' 660th began a season of personal milestones, which also included Ken Griffey Jr.'s 500th homer and Greg Maddux notching his 300th victory.
At the time he passed Mays, though, Bonds didn't anticipate racing toward the 700 mark so fast.
"It just sort of came up on me," said Bonds, who has maintained in recent days that getting to 700 isn't any big deal. The real milestones are still ahead.
"You look at 715 and 756, those are really big," Alou said.
It seemed like only yesterday that Bonds reached the 600-homer plateau. It happened little more than two years ago -- Aug. 17, 2002 -- against the Pittsburgh Pirates' Kip Wells at what was then called Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.
In fact, just about all of his greatest recent career home run milestones have come at the Giants' five-year-old ballpark on King Street south of downtown San Francisco -- 500, 600, 660, 661 and now 700. And in 2002 when he set the single-season record of 73, the last three homers were hit there as well.
Bonds said he's simply more comfortable playing at home.
"It's happened basically because my family's here," Bonds said. "When they're around, it's just a lot easier. And when you're home, your fans are cheering for you. It's a little bit different. It's a rare thing to hear cheers on the road. You're hearing it and then there's all these emotions inside of you. There's more pressure when you're on the road."
Aaron also cracked Nos. 500, 600 and 700 at home at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, while Ruth hit all three of those milestone homers on the road.
In the case of Bonds' 500th homer, which came on April 17, 2001 -- early during the season in which he hit a single-season record 73 homers -- it came only two days after he smacked No. 499.
It took only three days between homers 599 and 600, but Bonds struggled for a week this year between hitting No. 659 on Opening Night at Houston against Roy Oswalt and blasting out 660 against the Milwaukee Brewers' Matt Kinney.
Now, it's the Babe or bust.
|How they joined the 700 club
(all 700+ home runs)
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.