|Friday, October 5
Special night won't be forgotten anytime soon
By Jim Caple
SAN FRANCISCO -- This is what baseball's most cherished record has come to in this era of diluted pitching, juiced balls, smaller ballparks and bigger hitters. Roger Maris' home run record of 61 lasted 37 years. Mark McGwire's record of 70 lasted three years. And Barry Bonds' record of 71 lasted less than an hour.
For all I know, by the time you read this, he may have gone deep two or three more times. Asked how long the record might last, Bonds replied: "For a couple of hours. .... Maybe to October 2002."
Please, Barry. No. We need more time than that. Certainly more than the three years you gave us since McGwire. We can't take another one of these chases for a while. I don't think we can even take another night like Friday. Not that another night like Friday seems remotely possible.
For starters, you had Bonds slamming a Chan Ho Park fastball into the right-center field bleachers to break McGwire's record in the first inning of what became the longest nine-inning game in major league history. And two innings later, you had Bonds homering off Park again to extend the record to 72.
McGwire and Maris celebrated their historic home runs with victories but Bonds could not. Despite his home runs, the Giants lost 11-10 to the Dodgers and the loss, coupled with victories by Arizona and Houston, eliminated San Francisco from a postseason slot.
That made for an odd moment when the Giants walked off the field after the 4-hour, 27-minute game while stadium workers began assembling a stage for a postgame ceremony that officially began the day after Bonds broke the record, at 12:25 a.m. San Francisco time.
I'm not sure how to describe the ceremony. Memorable? Emotional? Strange? Those are good starting points, but they don't cover it all. A few of the highlights. The Say-Hey kid ripped Bobby Bonds for not being there for his son's record. Fans chanted, "Four more years, four more years." And Barry broke down with so much emotion that a teammate had to take over and assure fans, "Barry loves you."
"You gotta shut up now," Willie Mays told cheering fans when he took the podium to talk about his godson. "I remember him as a kid, 5 years old," Mays said. "And I remember saying to him, "Boy, get out of my locker."
This, by the way, is a phrase Mays often used on reporters during his playing days as well.
Mays singled out Bonds' mother, Pat, for bringing Barry into the world, then took a friendly shot at Bobby for being at a charity golf tournament in Connecticut. "I know Bobby couldn't be here, but I will be on the phone to him telling him he should have been here," Mays said.
When Bonds took the podium, he thanked God, the Giants, his teammates, his family, and his vast entourage of helpers. "And oh yeah," Bonds said, "I got to tell you this. I can't even believe I'm saying this."
The fans leaned in, hoping to hear Bonds say that he will re-sign with the Giants. No such luck. It was a memorable night, but not that memorable. Instead, Bonds informed them that he had to buy Shawon Dunston a sports car because his teammate had bet him in May that he would break McGwire's record.
The crowd laughed and then Bonds got serious, trying to thank the fans for their support. But tears welled up in his eyes and he broke down. Mays put his arm around him for support, but it took Dunston to lighten the moment by grabbing the microphone.
"I just want to thank everybody for coming out and supporting the Giants. Barry loves you," Dunston said. "And he really does want to come back next year. What do you think? I'm coming back, why not Barry?"
Bonds did not agree to that, but he did tell fans, "I do love San Francisco, and I love you fans. And my family knows, and God knows, I'm proud to wear this uniform."
The question is whether he will wear it after this weekend. Agent Scott Boras said he isn't sure whether he and Bonds will negotiate with the Giants again before filing for free agency in November.
Bonds deflected the question as well, instead talking about the uncertainty of his career and describing his home run chase as a healing process after some ups and downs during his seasons in San Francisco.
"I am a forgiving person and I saw a lot of change in how the media treated me, and how the fans treated me," he told reporters. "It's really nice. I don't think I've changed, but we've been winning and doing well."
The Giants have two games left for Bonds to pad the record -- Mays told him to hit a couple more so no one could ever touch the record -- but the chase that never captured the country's attention the way McGwire's did is all but complete. There is a new record-holder, the debate whether to pitch to Bonds is over, and the only question is how long the new record might last.
Asked to put his feat into words, Bonds said, "I can't. Not right now. I just can't do it right now."
There was a lot of that going around Friday night. Hopefully, the record will last long enough for us to put it in perspective before going through the process again. I know I am exhausted and I wasn't the one swinging the bat.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.