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Team comes first for Bonds04/14/2004 3:37 AM ET
By John Schlegel
SAN FRANCISCO -- There, another milestone passed by Barry Bonds. We now return you to your regularly scheduled baseball season. Now that he is officially past his idol Willie Mays and owns third place on the all-time homers list, Bonds and the rest of the game can get back to the glorious marathon that is the 162-game season. Not that these couple of historic steps -- No. 660 on Monday and then No. 661 on Tuesday night -- were anything short of thrilling. What we saw with both was something to cherish, particularly the one Monday that had both Bonds and Mays sitting on the same 660 pedestal, sharing a hug on the field and passing a symbolic torch with $18,000 worth of diamonds on it. You don't see this stuff every day. But you don't hold the Oscars every day, either, and you don't have lobster every day. It's time to get back to the meat and potatoes. Baseball's too much of a team game to be always focused on one guy's achievements all the time. It's a game in which one player can make a difference, but one player can't make a champion. It's a game defined by long stretches of time stitched together by great moments like these. In the end, the team game defines the player, not the other way around. That's been the conundrum Bonds has faced ever since he started ticking off milestones and records like he's flipping through a phone book. Given the choice between focusing on his milestones or focusing on the team, winning as a team comes first for Bonds. Barry Bashers probably don't believe him, but he has said it time and time again, particularly from the 2001 ascent to 73 homers onward. He rejoiced in 660 like no other milestone before it, but even before he hit 661 on Tuesday night, Bonds appeared ready to get back to the business of the baseball marathon's everyday grind, back to being one of 25 in a clubhouse, not one of three on a homers list. "I like it to be a team situation," Bonds said after Tuesday's milestone homer. "It's a little better than everything thrown on yourself. But that's a part of baseball and a part of history, and you can't really get around it. "I think the guys on this team have been very supportive over it and really helped keep me relaxed, especially Marquis." That would be Marquis Grissom, the veteran close in more than just age to Bonds. Grissom arrived in the Giants clubhouse last season and became fast friends with a man who has had a hard time developing a lot of clubhouse friendships over the years. "Him and me are at it every day as though it's just a normal day," Bonds said. "I just didn't want Marquis to have more home runs than me this year. I'd have to hear about it too often." Grissom, who homered twice Tuesday and now shares the team lead with Bonds at three, gladly obliges Bonds with the ribbing he craves. But there's no question that the affable Grissom does it all with a heavy dose of respect for his teammate's accomplishments. "It's tough for him sometimes, but we're pulling for him all the time," Grissom said. "He's the greatest. That's the way I looked at it. I've played for 15 years and haven't seen anything like it. "To see him doing what he's doing at this age we can't help but pull for the dude." Somewhere, Jeff Kent just slipped off his soapy truck in disbelief. The Bonds-Kent relationship, or lack thereof, was well documented and made for some compelling video when they went toe-to-toe and hand-to-throat. It was central to a dark cloud that hovered inside the Giants clubhouse for years, a cloud of tension that seemed to only get worse with each milestone Bonds reached. But Bonds seems more relaxed than ever with his teammates these days. Maybe that's because he has been through so much over the last year and persevered so admirably that his teammates can't help but give him props. And maybe Bonds has accepted his teammates more into his world, and his extended family, as it were. Of course, nothing inside that clubhouse can approach the relationship Bonds had with his father, particularly late in Bobby Bonds' life, and the relationship he retains with Mays, a bond that has grown since Mays took on the heavy burden of father figure and coach. While Mays could be there for these shining moments, Bonds is past his father's death enough that he can imagine without tears exactly what Bobby would have done upon watching 661 fly into McCovey Cove. "He probably would have given me a big hug and a big kiss -- he got really affectionate as he got older," Bonds said. "Probably, he'd tell me we've got work to do tomorrow. That's my father. My father doesn't like me to live on today. There's tomorrow now, you've got to do something tomorrow. So I'll go back to the batting cage to fine tune what I might have made a mistake today." Yep, back to work for Barry Bonds, back to the marathon. The lobster was magnificent, but bring on the meat and potatoes.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.