06/09/2002 8:25 pm ET
No love lost between superstars
Only hit is promised pitch into Bonds' arm
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- In the end, Barry Bonds walked the walk but wouldn't talk the talk.
This weekend is what they had in mind when concocting this Interleague scheme. Three games between 40-year strangers, two of them decided in the last at-bat, the third another one-run affair.
Anyone this morning still inclined to dis Interleague ball will get an argument from 166,000 people who passed through Yankee Stadium. Not a very vocal argument, though -- most left their voices in the Bronx.
Sunday's 55,335 were treated to the epitome of the concept of Interleague play. A chance for strangers to compete, and for curious fans to see it.
The Giants' Barry Bonds and the Yankees' Roger Clemens are the icons of their respective leagues, having logged more time exclusively in their circuits than any other active player.
Bonds has spent all 17 of his seasons in the NL, Clemens all 19 of his in the AL. Since Bonds' October calendars haven't exactly teemed with World Series appearances, the two of them have racked up their Hall of Fame numbers as strangers to each other.
They are even more estranged after Sunday.
Four times they faced each other across a 60-foot, 6-inch divide, and Bonds is still waiting for something he can reach without a telephone pole. The only thing Clemens has still given Bonds is a warning, that he would try to knock that "armor" off his right arm.
And darned if Clemens didn't take a shot at it -- bouncing a third-inning fastball off Bonds' right upper arm one pitch after his only swing of the afternoon had produced a foul.
After the 4-2 loss, Giants manager Dusty Baker was still shaking his head over that one. Baker, a spokesman for prostate-cancer research, wishes donors to Cap CURE were as good on their pledges.
"He did what he said he was going to do, and that's not right," Baker said. "Yeah, I guess it's possible it wasn't intentional, but it's hard to say it was an accident when you say you're gonna do it.
"You can be bold like that and get away with it in the AL. In our league, you have to hit. If he was pitching in the National League, he wouldn't be known as The Rocket.
"He'd be Roger the Dodger."
Baker did not mean the Los Angeles variety, either.
When struck, Bonds seemed more annoyed than upset. As he dropped his bat and undid the Velcro on his padding, he briefly gestured out to the mound then turned to trot down the line.
He and Jason Giambi, moving into position to hold him on, approached the bag from opposite directions.
"Where'd it get you?" the Yankee asked.
"Right here," Bonds replied, tapping Giambi's own upper arm.
That hardly qualified as a full-blown interview, but it was the only one Bonds would grant this day.
Reporters making a move on his locker after the game were quickly cut off by the Giants' PR rep. There would be no Bonds group chat this postgame, no weekend wrapup reflections by the man whose first visit electrified Yankee Stadium.
The media moaned and withdrew griping. That wasn't entirely fair. For two days, Bonds gallantly handled the crush, giving eloquent interviews daily and twice Friday, both before and after the game.
After this one, what could he have offered? How it felt to come to the plate five times and have an 0-1-0-0 line in the box score? How it was unfair of Clemens to lower his pitch count by hitting him with a second pitch the one time he didn't use four to walk him?
That plate umpire Joe West really should do more reading?
When Russ Ortiz buzzed a high fastball to Giambi at chin-level but actually over the plate, West issued the obligatory warning to both benches, which brought Baker out of the dugout to inquire.
"He said he was just doing his job," Baker related, "and that he hadn't heard of the comments Clemens had made before. Nobody had to tell me; it was in all the papers."
It isn't totally correct to say the two have not met except for one long-ago collegiate encounter and two random All-Star Game confrontations -- all of which left Bonds 0-for-6 against Clemens.
They ran into each other at last January's Baseball Writers Association of America banquet here. Also in attendance was Yankees manager Joe Torre, whom Bonds egged on to make sure Clemens would pitch in this Interleague series.
"Barry was looking forward to it back at the banquet," said Clemens, leaving the impression that incident had been under his skin for five months.
"It's difficult -- he's right on top of the plate, that elbow guard is in the zone. Any power hitter like that, you want to crowd them."
Due to Clemens' "premonition," hitting Bonds was topical. But in a two-run loss in which they lacked Bonds' usual protection (clean-up hitter Jeff Kent was out with a nasty toe bruise), the Giants were more miffed by the Yankees' refusal to pitch to him.
So, too, were those 55,335, who booed each of his three intentional walks and the one unintentional one.
Lay off both Clemens and Steve Karsay, Torre said.
"I'm not here to entertain people," Torre said. "I'm here to try to win ballgames. I said that we'll pitch to him, but if there's a base open and the game is in the balance, I'm not pitching to him."
"It comes from the bench," conceded Clemens, "so you just happen to be in the situation to be the one to walk him. I'm trying to win a ballgame"
He was lucky to do that, said the man batting after Bonds. "He left the game a loser," Benito Santiago said, referring to a three-run eighth-inning rally rewarding Clemens.
Said Rich Aurilia, the man batting before Bonds, "In this game, if you want to be the best, you've got to play the best and beat the best. I'm sure 50,000 people would have liked to have seen Barry get something to hit."
Roger Clemens shrugged. "If you want to see him get some hacks, get here at 10 a.m."
For batting practice. Target practice is later.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.