08/09/2002 11:55 PM ET
Bonds honored to join 600 club
By Josh Rawitch / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- The morning of Aug. 9, 2002, Barry Bonds woke up and told his wife, Liz, he would hit his 600th home run in the game that night, the 2,395th of his monumental career.
At 9:25 p.m. PT, he connected on a 421-foot homer off Pirates right-hander Kip Wells to become the fourth player in Major League history to accomplish the feat, thus following through on his promise.
"Luckily I did or she would have had some choice words for me," said Bonds.
But instead, Liz sat smiling in the postgame press conference with the couple's 3-year-old daughter, Aisha, and Bonds' mother, Pat, as baseball's fourth-most prolific home run hitter weighed in on yet another of his accomplishments.
"It's an honor for anybody," he said of joining Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays as the only players ever to hit 600 home runs. "They're considered the greatest baseball players to ever live and to be in that select group is great, but nothing is more satisfying than doing it in front of 40,000 friends here in San Francisco. I don't think you could ever get more gratifying than that."
Barry Bonds was all smiles at a postgame press conference despite the Giants' loss. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
Well, actually one thing might have made the evening better and that would have been a victory. Bonds' homer pulled his team to within one run, but that was the final run in the game, a 4-3 loss at Pacific Bell Park.
"It's exciting, definitely exciting," said manager Dusty Baker, who was on deck when Aaron broke Ruth's all-time record in 1974. "That's a monumental feat when you see 600 like that. There are very few guys who can hit 600 home runs. ... We'd have liked to have gotten 600 and the win at the same time."
Still, the loss did not completely spoil the milestone in Bonds' mind.
"I can't sit here and say that it isn't a great moment in my career because definitely it is," he said when asked if the milestone is bittersweet. "I'm definitely very proud of that. We want to win, bad, and we're playing good and we just ran against the wall right here."
The previous weekend, when Bonds connected for No. 597 off Wells and No. 598 off Scott Sauerbeck at PNC Park, he downplayed any excitement over hitting those homers against the Pirates, the only other team with which he has played in his 17-year big-league career. But after clubbing No. 600, he admitted that doing it against his former team made the mark even more special.
Adding to the occasion was the presence of Bonds' father, Bobby, the former big leaguer who recently had a tumor removed from his kidney but said he would make every effort to be on hand when his son reached the milestone. Ironically, the elder Bonds was not at Pacific Bell Park when the younger one set the single-season home run record last season, and this time, another important person in his life was missing.
Willie Mays, Bonds' godfather and the next player Bonds could surpass on the all-time home run list, will get an earful in his next conversation with his godson. But while Bonds plans to give Mays grief about not being there to witness No. 600, he still can't fathom passing Mays' home run total of 660.
"It's still easier said than done when [it's] somebody you've looked up to your whole lifetime, to surpass someone that you put so high on a pedestal. ... It keeps me going knowing that he's better. It's fun for me knowing that he's better. It's gives me a sense of drive knowing how he's better.
"I don't want to be compared to him. Willie has his status in the game and that's where it should stand. ... We're different players and people should respect our individualities."
Though Bonds might not yet be able to declare himself one of the greatest players ever to play the game, his teammates were more than willing to do so on his behalf.
"People don't appreciate him," said Shawon Dunston. "People need to appreciate a great player, whether or not you like him personally. When you talk about baseball, you talk about Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Frank Robinson, Willie Stargell. But not Barry Bonds.
"We're playing with arguably the best player to ever play the game, but he won't get that because people say he's not nice to people. But he's all right. He doesn't go to bars. He doesn't drink. He doesn't hang out. He minds his business; he's a good citizen and a great baseball player. He's got 600 home runs, and I've only got 600-some RBIs and I think my career's been very good. He's great. He deserves everything that happens to him."
Bonds did his share of spreading the appreciation as well, citing his personal coaches, trainers and the Giants organization for bringing him to the city where he was raised. He admitted that his timing is never quite right, though, as his chase of the single-season home run record came in the aftermath of Sept. 11, while this year, No. 600 comes during discussions for a new collective bargaining agreement.
Yet if you ask Bonds, there won't be reason for future celebrations such as the one that took place here Aug. 9. The fireworks that were launched from a barge on the Bay and the unveiling of a special 600 logo on the wall in left field will not be necessary because Bonds emphatically denied once again any chance at breaking Aaron's mark of 755.
But Dunston isn't buying it.
"Barry's being modest," said Dunston, who won a Mercedes Benz in a bet with Bonds after he broke Mark McGwire's single-season mark last season. "He's going to break [Aaron's] record. He has to stay healthy. I mean, last year he was breaking 500. Now he's breaking 600.
"He doesn't want to bet me. I know he's going to do it. I'll bet he'll hit 800."
Let the countdown begin.
Josh Rawitch covers the Giants for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. John Schlegel contributed to this article. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.