Aug. 9, 2002
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Barry Bonds prefers to make history in front of his friends.
Bonds hit his 600th homer on an unusually warm Friday night at Pacific Bell Park, roaring past another milestone in his personal home run derby for the ages.
From the instant the ball left Bonds' black bat, the sellout crowd roared in an ovation that rolled through the park for several minutes. Fireworks flew to celebrate another amazing achievement by Bonds, who hit 73 homers last season before joining three of baseball's greatest hitters at 600.
The San Francisco Giants lost 4-3 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but nobody in attendance is likely to remember.
"It's a relief, because it's here at home," Bonds said. "It's tough to celebrate something like this on someone else's turf. ... To be in that select group is great, but nothing's more satisfying than doing it front of 40,000 friends here in San Francisco. I don't think that it could ever be more gratifying than that."
Bonds put Kip Wells' pitch high and deep in the center field stands in the sixth inning to become just the fourth player to reach the rarified mark. He joined Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays with another milestone achievement in his unprecedented two-year power surge.
Bonds hit his 500th homer on April 17, 2001, and he has passed 13 players on baseball's career list since then in an unprecedented display. In 2001, he broke Mark McGwire's single-season record.
The 38-year-old star is now 155 home runs from tying Aaron's career record for home runs.
"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate Barry Bonds on his historic achievement," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement released Saturday. "Since Babe Ruth hit his 600th home run 68 years ago, it is remarkable that only three players have reached that mark. ... It is not surprising that the three who preceded Bonds are in the Hall of Fame, and he surely will join them."
Bonds hit his first homer since hitting No. 599 on Tuesday night, but despite the landmark blast, he couldn't get a victory for the Giants.
When he came to the plate with two runners on and two outs in the eighth against reliever Brian Boehringer, Bonds grounded out to second baseman Pokey Reese on the grass in short right field.
"I mean it's sweet, it's nice, I can't sit there and say that it isn't a great moment in my career because, definitely it is," Bonds said. "We want to win bad. We're playing good, and we just ran against the wall right here."
Wells (11-9) allowed a historic homer, but he pitched 7 1-3 strong innings and tied his career high with eight strikeouts while winning for just the second time in seven decisions.
"It was a perfect day," said Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, who played with Bonds in Pittsburgh. "A good friend of mine reached a milestone. I'm very happy for him. I can say I was associated with him in some small way."
Aramis Ramirez homered and drove in four runs for the Pirates. Mike Williams pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 36 chances.
Bonds singled in the first and grounded out in the fourth, but he crushed a 2-1 pitch from Wells in the sixth. Bonds took a long moment to admire his blast as Pac Bell erupted and fireworks launched from the arcade atop the right field wall.
"It wasn't a wonderful pitch, but it wasn't a bad pitch," Wells said. "He hits pretty much everything well. I had a front-row seat to the whole thing. I wanted to take it all in and watch. Only I can say I'm the guy who gave it up. I'm happy. A win is a win."
The ball hit near the edge of the bleachers, and the fan who grabbed it, 36-year-old Jay Arsenault of Vacaville, Calif., emerged with a bloody face.
"I knew it was gone when I hit it. I was just hoping no one got hurt when they go for it," Bonds said. "I was just praying no one got hurt fighting for it."
Arsenault, a construction worker who got the tickets from his boss, came away with cuts on his left cheek, arms, legs and hand. He also had a huge grin and some definite plans for his catch.
"Money talks," he said.
Bonds stepped lightly on home plate and pointed skyward with both hands. He then waved to his wife and daughter sitting next to the dugout, and he pointed at his cheering father, Bobby Bonds, who had surgery last month to remove a cancerous tumor from his kidney.
Mays, Bonds' godfather, had a prior commitment and was not at the ballpark.
Except for Bonds' homer, however, San Francisco struggled against Wells. Rich Aurilia hit a two-run homer in the first inning for the Giants, who lost their second straight after a four-game winning streak.
Jason Schmidt (7-6), pitching against Pittsburgh - his former team - for the second straight week, allowed five hits and four runs while striking out five. Schmidt mostly stayed in control, but Ramirez - who ended a three-month slump this week with an 11-for-24 run - got two big hits against him.
But Ramirez knew his hits were dwarfed by Bonds, who went homerless in 13 plate appearances following No. 599. Before Friday's game, Bonds told his wife, Liz, that he would hit his 600th that day.
"Luckily, I did," Bonds said, "or she would have had some choice words for me when I got home."