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700

Bonds Joins Aaron and Ruth in Historic Club: Giants 4, Padres 1

By Greg Beacham
Associated Press
Saturday, September 18, 2004; Page D01

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 17 -- Barry Bonds hit his 700th home run Friday night, toppling another milestone and edging closer to Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron in his quest to become the greatest slugger in baseball history.

Bonds rewarded his fans in the opener of the San Francisco Giants' nine-game homestand with a 392-foot opposite-field homer to left-center leading off the third inning. He connected on an 0-1 slider from Jake Peavy, giving the Giants a 4-0 lead over the San Diego Padres in a 4-1 Giants victory.


Barry Bonds rounds the bases after hitting career home run number 700, a shot to left field in the third inning. The game ended too late for this edition. (Susan Ragan -- Reuters)

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"It's great that I could do it at home," Bonds said.

As Bonds rounded second base, the Giants launched streamers and an elaborate fireworks display from the scoreboard and light towers in center field. He pointed skyward as he crossed home plate, then took a curtain call to a joyous standing ovation.

The Giants also unveiled two enormous banners on the light towers: One featuring Bonds with "700" below him, and another featuring action shots of Ruth and Aaron and their corresponding totals.

Bonds's 42nd homer of the season is a mere steppingstone in the 40-year-old's march toward Ruth's once-unthinkable 714 and Aaron's 755. Bonds hasn't been slowed by age, steroid suspicions or the collective fear of pitchers and managers walking him with record frequency.

With the milestone, Bonds plans to turn his focus back to the playoff chase after getting a bit stressed by the scrutiny. Willie Mays, whose 660 homers were passed by his godson earlier this season, was in attendance.

"The good thing is I get to sleep now and stop having nightmares about this," said Bonds, who admitted that his 660th homer meant more to him than this one.

Bonds is the first player to reach 700 homers since Aaron on July 21, 1973. With good health and similar production, he could catch Ruth early next season -- and even have an outside shot at Hammerin' Hank next fall.

Bonds got another big ovation when he walked to left field after the inning. Bonds doffed his cap as the Giants unveiled one more tribute on the outfield wall behind him, a montage featuring the slogan: "A Giant Among Legends."

The ball was captured by Steven Williams, a 25-year-old fan from nearby Pacifica, in the middle of several fans. The ball rolled right in front of Williams while he was flat on the ground in the scrum.

"I'm looking around, all of a sudden I see this white thing flying through the sky," said Williams, who plans to sell the ball. "It's not going to eBay. It's worth whatever somebody will pay for it."

Aside from a slight chill in the air, the game featured nearly ideal conditions for Bonds's historic blast.

San Francisco is in a playoff chase largely thanks to Bonds's offensive production, increasing the importance of every homer. The slugger loves to face the Padres, who have allowed 79 of his homers -- 18 more than any other club.

Even the wind was cooperating, blowing out to right field at the Giants' waterfront ballpark -- though the left-handed hitter confounded his amphibious fans by going to the opposite field. Fans began gathering in the water well before the game, filling McCovey Cove with kayaks, rafts and swimmers.

Bonds has said he couldn't imagine ever surpassing Aaron as baseball's home run king. Aaron believes Bonds will pass him soon enough.

"I think it's just a matter of time -- maybe a year, two years," Aaron said. "I think he will. I'll be happy. Everybody will be after him then. They won't be involving me. Records are made to be broken."


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