Peeved at Petco, Bonds heads home

Updated: April 12, 2004, 10:10 AM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

After going homerless in three games in San Diego's new stadium, Barry Bonds will attempt to tie Willie Mays' career mark of 660 home runs in San Francisco, where there won't be as many restrictions on the post-homer celebration.

To the mild irritation of some opponents, Mays was on hand for Barry's games in Houston and San Diego the first week, fully prepared to greet his godson after the tying home run with an actual Olympic torch.

But now that the Giants are back home for their opener Monday afternoon, the ceremony need not be so understated. In addition to Mays and his Olympic torch, the Giants could expand the celebration by having Bonds also greeted at home plate by all of the following:

  • President Bush wearing a flight suit and holding up a banner that reads, "Mission Accomplished."

  • Alex Popov, Patrick Hayashi and their lawyers, each claiming ownership of the 660 ball.

  • Joan Rivers asking what the pitch he hit was and who he was wearing when he hit it ("Rawlings.").

  • Federal investigators handing him a subpoena to appear before the grand jury again.

  • And, naturally, Morganna.

    Of course, first Barry has to hit the home run. After hitting his 659th career homer in the season's first game last week, Bonds has gone five consecutive games and 22 plate appearances without a home run -- a failure of near-human proportions.

    "I think it's harder on Barry than anybody," Giants starting pitcher Brett Tomko said. "He's the one who has to go out there. And Willie's around here, and he's waiting as anxiously as anyone."

    The Say-Hey Septuagenarian (Mays turns 73 next month) watched the games from a TV in an office off the visitors clubhouse, then made the long walk out to the dugout for each of Barry's 14 plate appearances this series. And each time he walked back to the office without being able to hand over the torch. Bonds had two hits and four walks (two intentional) and didn't look like the game's most dominating hitter to whom we've grown accustomed. He occasionally was out in front of offspeed pitches and tied up by breaking balls. The only ball he really drove was on Thursday night, but center fielder Jay Payton caught it at the top of the fence.

    Everyone got Bonds out, from David Wells, the 41-year-old veteran who was raised by Hells Angels, to Jason Szuminski, the Air Force first lieutenant with a degree in aerospace engineering from MIT. Szuminski became the first MIT grad in baseball history when he made his debut in the ninth inning Sunday, facing Bonds just two major league batters into his career.

    Was quantum physics ever this hard? Maybe. Szuminski retired Bonds on a long fly to left field, one of many flyballs from both teams that died in front of the warning track.

    "They pitched good to Barry," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "They kept changing zones, moving in and out, changing speeds, throwing breaking balls on fastball counts, and they walked him when they felt they had to. He's kind of disappointed about the way they're pitching him. He went after some bad pitches to get something going for us."

    "Everyone is trying to do something," Bonds said, acknowledging he probably got himself out a couple times. "Balls are just dying out there. And the Padres are hitting balls farther than us and they're not going out."

    In other words, the new stadium is not one of Barry's favorites. He hit more home runs in old Jack Murphy (39) than any other road stadium but said he felt odd just stepping up to the plate in the new one. "It's odd when you only have one home run (between the two teams) in San Diego, period," he said. "I mean, c'mon. They used to hit a lot of home runs against us here, too. I think Ryan Klesko would have hit four out at the other place.

    "It's not Bonds-proof. It's baseball-proof."

    Get used to such comments, you're going to hear a lot of them as the season goes on. The Padres already are grousing about the stadium. "I just wore Marquis Grissom down," Klesko said of his double Saturday night after watching two long fly balls caught at the warning track. "He just got tired of running and the ball dropped past him."

    Meanwhile, the amazing Barry Intentional Walk Legend grew in the eighth inning Sunday night when San Diego manager Bruce Bochy brought in left-handed reliever Eddie Oropesa just to intentionally walk Bonds. With one out, San Diego leading 3-0 and runners on second and third, Oropesa came in, threw four intentional balls and then left for a right-handed pitcher.

    Now, that's a sign of respect when they want a lefty-lefty matchup just to intentionally walk you.

    "We went through that last year," Alou said of the intentional walks. "It's up to the guys batting behind him to come through."

    They did Sunday, with pinch-hitter Pedro Feliz following the walk with a two-run double and the Giants scoring three more runs to turn a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 lead.

    So, the Giants avoided a three-game sweep and finished their first road trip 3-3 before boarding the flight home. Bonds said he preferred to tie his godfather in San Francisco.

    "It's satisfying for us, period," Bonds said when asked whether it was good to score runs after he is intentionally walked. "We went .500 on the road trip. We've been on the road since spring training, basically two months. It's nice to go home."

    Hmmm. Maybe they can tie a yellow ribbon around the giant glove in the outfield.

    Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

    Jim Caple | email

    Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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