Bonds Joins 700 Home Run Club

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When Barry Bonds hit his 700th homer, only his 5-year-old daughter could sum up the history and majesty of the blast.

"My dad is the best player," Aisha Bonds pronounced.

Bonds connected in the third inning of San Francisco's Friday night 4-1 victory over San Diego. With a 392-foot solo shot to left-center, the slugger became the first new member of the 700 club in 31 years, joining Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.

The 40-year-old Bonds was happy to do it at home in front of godfather Willie Mays and his adoring fans, but he claims he still can't believe what he's doing to baseball's record books.

"It's just unbelievable," he said. "You really can't put it into words to be in a class with those two great players. It's like you're dreaming and you're not dreaming. It's unbelievable, it's unreal."

Bonds is marching toward Ruth's once-unthinkable 714 and Aaron's imposing 755. He hasn't been slowed by age, steroid suspicions or the collective fear of pitchers and managers walking him with record frequency.

With good health and similar production, he could catch Ruth early next season — and even have an outside shot at Hammerin' Hank next fall.

Yet, Bonds still clings to the hope of winning World Series, and this victory kept the Giants in front of the Chicago Cubs by a half-game in the National League wild-card race.

"I have game left, and it's just really hard to fathom that I've hit 700 home runs and I can still play and still contribute," he said. "I just don't want to get satisfied, get too caught up into it all. Right now, I really want to focus on completing my career and, hopefully, coming back to the World Series."

As Bonds rounded second base, the Giants launched streamers and an elaborate fireworks display from the scoreboard and light towers in center field. He pointed skyward as he crossed home plate, then took a curtain call to a joyous standing ovation.

The Giants also unveiled two enormous banners on the light towers: One featuring Bonds with "700" below him, and another featuring action shots of Ruth and Aaron and their corresponding totals.

Fan Steve Williams, 25, got the ball. He admits he's interested in selling it but wouldn't say how or when - and doesn't have a particular dollar figure in mind.

"It's worth whatever somebody will pay for it," Williams said.

Bonds hit his 500th and 600th homers in San Francisco. The 5-year-old park also was the site of his 73rd homer in 2001, capping his single-season record.

Bonds hit just one homer on the Giants' recent eight-game trip, reaching 699 in Arizona. He got to work quickly back home: Instead of dunking another homer in the kayak-infested waters of McCovey Cove, Bonds went to the opposite field on an 0-1 slider from Jake Peavy.

"The good thing is I get to sleep now," Bonds said, "and stop having nightmares about this."

Bonds has said he couldn't imagine ever surpassing Aaron as baseball's home run king. Aaron believes Bonds will pass him soon enough.

"I think it's just a matter of time — maybe a year, two years," Aaron said. "I think he will. I'll be happy. Everybody will be after him then. They won't be involving me. Records are made to be broken."

Aaron endured racial epithets and death threats when he approached Ruth's record in the early 1970s. Bonds has endured speculation about his super-sized body and bulked-up power statistics that defy logic and age.

And he has done it all despite the managers and pitchers who are afraid to pitch to him.

Bonds has been walked a record 207 times this season, including a record 105 times intentionally.

Bonds needed more at-bats (9,063) than Ruth (8,169) but not as many as Aaron (11,145) to reach 700 homers. But neither Aaron (1,232) nor Ruth (1,999) had as many walks as Bonds' 2,276 when they hit their 700th home run.

Bonds has been so busy dealing with questions about his pursuit of Ruth and Aaron, it's almost as if everybody has forgotten about the steroid scandal that surrounded him when this season began.

Bonds' personal trainer and longtime friend, Greg Anderson, is one of four men charged in an alleged steroid-distribution ring that federal prosecutors say supplied dozens of professional athletes with banned substances. They have pleaded not guilty.

During spring training, many fans wondered whether Bonds would start showing his age this season and whether the scandal would weigh on his broad shoulders.

If anything, it made him more focused. He's putting up numbers worthy of a seventh MVP award. But what he really wants more than accolades for his power prowess is another shot at that elusive ring that would mean the world to him.
  • John Esterbrook

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