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Barry Bonds Is Finally Amazed About His Pace
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 09/07/2001
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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
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Sept. 7, 2001

AP Sports Writer

SAN FRANCISCO - There was a word for 60 home runs when Barry Bonds was growing up: impossible. Only Babe Ruth and Roger Maris had done it in those days.

"That was a number, there was just no way," he said. "No one will ever hit that."

Bonds on Thursday became the fifth player in baseball history to hit 60 home runs in a season, connecting in the second inning of San Francisco's game against Arizona.

Even Bonds, who has been nonchalant about his home-run pace this season, was amazed.

"That one was impressive. I couldn't believe it," he said. "It's been a pretty good year."

Bonds had never hit more than 49 homers in a season before this year. He joined Babe Ruth (60 in 1927), Roger Maris (61 in 1961), Mark McGwire (70 in 1998, 65 in 1999) and Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 63 in 1999).

Bonds hit his 60th homer in the Giants' 141st game, reaching the mark faster than the other four sluggers. McGwire, the previous fastest to 60, needed 142 games in 1998, the year he set the record with 70 home runs in a season.

Bonds' milestone came off Arizona starter Albie Lopez (3-5). It was a two-out curveball on a 2-2 count.

The sellout crowd at Pacific Bell Park jumped up as the high-arching hit sailed over the right-field wall. Jeff Kent, who had been waiting on deck, high-fived a smiling Bonds as he crossed home plate.

As the fans chanted "Barry! Barry!" Bonds made a curtain call and tipped his cap.

"You couldn't write a better story. You couldn't dream of anything better," Bonds said. "It's just unbelievable."

The ball bounced on the walkway between the right-field wall and McCovey Cove and was scooped up by an unknown fan.

Ed Martinez of San Mateo, Calif., was out on the walkway and saw it all.

"Suddenly, all the heads above me in the stands look up like the ball is coming this way," he said. "It goes over the wall and bounces and takes this weird spin, and this guy dives on it."

The Giants went on to win the game 9-5, narrowing Arizona's lead over San Francisco in the NL West to 1{ games. San Francisco pulled even with the idle Chicago Cubs for the wild card lead.

Rich Aurilia hit a solo homer and a two-run single, and John Vander Wal and Ramon Martinez each drove in two runs. Aaron Fultz (3-1) relieved starter Ryan Jennings for the win.

But the focus was on the Giants' enigmatic left fielder.

"Sixty home runs, I'm finding out, is not that easy to do," said Arizona's Luis Gonzalez, who has 51 homers himself. "He's a great player to go up there, and every team is pitching around him, when he gets his one pitch he doesn't miss it. I congratulate him for hitting 60. Not many have done that."

Bonds, who now has 554 homers to rank seventh on the career list, needs 11 homers in the Giants' final 21 games to break McGwire's single-season record.

At 37 years and 44 days, Bonds was the oldest player to reach No. 60. And he did it in the fewest at-bats: Thursday's homer came in his 411th at-bat this season. McGwire was a month shy of his 35th birthday in 1998, and he needed 439 at-bats.

Ever since Ruth hit 60 to break his own record for the third time, the number has held significance among baseball players and fans. Maris' duel with Mickey Mantle in 1961 ended with Maris' record-breaking 61 homers in a summer that captivated the nation.

All eyes were focused on the long ball again in 1998, when McGwire and Sosa dueled through the entire summer and McGwire finished with 70.

Bonds was unsure whether he could even approach McGwire's record.

"I sat on the bench and thought, `This ball I flew out to deep center, Mark would have hit it out of the stadium.' The ball I hit to left field, the line drive, that was another one he would have hit out," Bonds said. "He would've had three home runs today. I don't have that kind of power. I can hit it a long way at times, but I'm not as consistent as he is."

As his 2-year-old daughter Aisha perched on his lap, Bonds vacillated Thursday from awe at his achievement to concern over the Giants' bid for the postseason.

Hittable pitches, he mused, will probably be a rarity from here on out.

"This is a pennant race," he said. "There's not going to be that many chances."

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