Bonds' victims making history, too09/07/2004 6:42 PM ET
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
With Barry Bonds collecting home run milestones of increasing significance in baseball's annals, there is a growing group of pitchers who know the feeling of being knocked unwillingly into the history books.
None of them, so far, have plopped down cross-legged on the mound like San Diego's Eric Show did when Pete Rose broke the all-time hits record and the celebration went on and on. Yet each has a bit of history they might not mind sitting down and rewriting.
Add Padres starter Jake Peavy to that list. He gave up home run No. 700 to Bonds on Sept. 17, becoming the latest in the club of Bonds' milestone homer pitchers.
As No. 660's Matt Kinney can attest, it's the kind of dubious honor that sticks with you.
"For a week after that, everybody who asked me for my autograph wanted me to write '660' next to it," Kinney said.
They're part of homer history, and they've got plenty of company among the current greats in the game when it comes to giving up long balls to Bonds. Exhibit A: Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling and John Smoltz sit atop the list with eight homers surrendered apiece.
But there's nothing quite like being the guy whose pitch ends up at the bottom of a vicious scrum of wannabe millionaires, or just as likely sailing into McCovey Cove.
The charter members include 500th homer pitcher Terry Adams, then with the Dodgers and now with the Red Sox, followed by No. 600 pitcher Kip Wells of the Pirates and Kinney, then of the Brewers and now of the Royals.
Adams got the club off to an inauspicious start. He didn't even know he was forming it back on April 17, 2001.
"It was kind of early in the year, I had just been traded to the Dodgers," the veteran lefty reliever recalls. "I just remember it was a close ballgame. I think it was 2-1, I just remember a lot of hype about it I guess.
"I really didn't realize what was at stake as I was facing him, but after he hit it, of course they had a little thing on the field, and I didn't have anyone out. I still had to get three outs in the eighth inning, so that was kind of tough."
The good, old Dodgers-Giants rivalry boiled up a bit on that one, as the extended celebration over Bonds' two-run homer -- which indeed led the Giants to a 3-2 victory -- wasn't all that appreciated by the team still hoping to make a comeback in the top of the ninth.
Amazingly, it was only 16 months later that Bonds welcomed Wells to the club with a 421-foot shot to center on Aug. 9, 2002, for No. 600.
For Wells, the scope of the homer has sent his appreciation for the milestone well beyond any frustration he might have felt at the moment about giving up a long ball in one game out of 162.
"It was fun," Wells says now. "I, obviously, wasn't planning on being a part of history at the time. Looking back, it was a pretty memorable time for me. ... He's a great player and he's done a lot of great things. It's not necessarily a real heartbreaker to have had it happen to me because he's obviously gotten 600 other guys, too."
Kinney, on the other hand, had the misfortune of having No. 660 turn the game around on the Brewers, setting off a celebration that included Hall of Famer Willie Mays.
The significance of 660, of course, is that it matched Bonds with godfather Mays for No. 3 on the all-time list. Especially with the death of Bonds' father, former Major Leaguer Bobby Bonds, still stinging the superstar son, the Bonds-Mays relationship was especially poignant.
Probably not something a guy on the mound can quite soak in while he's in the moment.
"His godfather came out and handed him something, roses or something," said Kinney, referring to what was actually a diamond-studded bat. "I was kind of aggravated at the time so I didn't pay too much attention to it. The game stopped and they did a nice little thing for him."
At the time, Kinney didn't exactly soak in the pageantry.
Said Kinney: "I was pretty upset about it and the umpire came out and said, 'Relax, it's not a big deal.' I said, 'Yeah, look at the scoreboard. That kind of changed things.' "
To be truthful, Kinney's legacy in the game, whatever it might be from here, changed that day as well. Heck, Kinney says his own father was among those trolling for 660 memorabilia on the Internet the next day.
And, to think, it was on a 3-1 pitch he thought he'd put out of harm's way. There was a base open with runners on first and third, and taking on A.J. Pierzynski was looking like a better option.
"I tried to go with a four-seamer up and away but it apparently wasn't up and away enough because he hit it about letter-high and outside," Kinney said. "I think he was just sick and tired of waiting for that 660th so he got a pitch that was close and he drove it a long ways.
"Put it this way: It's a home run that I'll never forget giving up. It probably won't be the last one I give up. Hopefully it won't be, so that means I'm pitching still. But, yeah, that was hit pretty good."
That's the beauty: It's not like he's the Lone Ranger out there. Some of the best pitchers in the game know what it's like to give up a homer or eight to Bonds.
Their strategies fail. They're very much part of home run history, too.
It kind of changes your approach, as Greg Maddux -- the master of approach to hitters -- will tell you.
His theory on pitching to Bonds?
"If it matters, you walk him," Maddux said. "If it doesn't matter, you hope he only hits a single or double off you."
In large part because of their own longevity and success, the tremendous trio of Maddux, Schilling and Smoltz sit atop the long list of homer victims along Bonds' road to 700.
These elite pitchers have a special understanding for what he does, because they've performed at extremely high levels themselves.
"As the situation gets more like a tunnel, he gets more incredibly focused," said Smoltz. "All of the elite athletes were like that. I'm sure the puck was slower for [Wayne] Gretzky and I'm sure the pitches are slower to Bonds than they are anybody else.
"There's nothing greater than when you go after him and get him out. But there's nothing worse than making a mistake and having everyone ask you, 'Why did you pitch to him?' That's the double-edged sword."
And it has been for a very long time. Bonds got his licks in on Seattle's Jamie Moyer, tied for third with five Bonds homers allowed, way back in the day when Bonds was in Pittsburgh and Moyer pitched for the Cubs and Cardinals in the years surrounding 1990.
But Moyer got to face him again in the 2003 All-Star Game, and it all came back to him why Bonds had taken him over the wall five times back then.
"He doesn't just go up there and wail away. He knows the strike zone," Moyer said. "The first time I faced him he was a lanky guy who hadn't developed yet. The most vivid memory I have pitching to him is the most recent -- the All-Star Game last year.
"I think I got behind him in the count, which is what I didn't want to do. I don't want to say I jammed him, because he hit a fly ball to the warning track, but I think I got in enough so that he didn't get his arms extended."
Ah, the little victories. Anymore, not giving up a homer to Bonds, even in an exhibition, is worth a sigh of relief.
Other times, you just have to laugh. Especially when you're not even supposed to be the victim in the first place.
Jose Lima, who matches Moyer with five allowed, remembers a Bonds homer that was supposed to be on somebody else's ledger. And it was a pretty typical outcome that Lima shares with so many pitchers -- some who gave up milestones and dozens who gave up building blocks to slugging greatness.
"The first time I faced him was kind of funny," recalls Lima, now with the Dodgers but then with the Astros. "Billy Wagner and I were warming up, and [manager] Larry Dierker gave the wrong sign and brought me in instead of Wagner.
"Bonds hit a walk-off homer."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.