Giants hope Bonds' record 'script' plays out at home

Originally Published: July 22, 2007
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

MILWAUKEE -- He spent his weekend in Milwaukee, oh-fer-ing away a tremendous Home Run History script. But for America's most-watched history chaser, the world continues to spin. The schedule roars ever onward. And the Traveling Home Run History Show must go on.

So now it's time for Barry Bonds to head home and get to work on a new script, a script he has written a thousand times:

Yep, it's the old "Barry Hits the Big One at Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T Park" script.

He had his chance to hit No. 755 in Hank Aaron's city this weekend, on the 31st anniversary of Aaron's last homer, with the commissioner of baseball in less-than-enthusiastic attendance.

"And if you wrote that script," Bud Selig said this weekend, "no one would believe it."

Barry Bonds
AP Photo/Morry GashBarry Bonds got a day off Sunday after going 0-for-6 in the previous two games in Milwaukee.

But apparently, even Bonds didn't believe it because that's sure not the script he wrote.

On Friday and Saturday, he went 0-for-6 in the land of Bud and Hank and Cheeseheads, with three walks, two strikeouts and just one ball that soared beyond the infield. Then, on Sunday, he never made it out of the dugout.

He didn't start or play in the Giants' 7-5 loss to the Brewers, although he did grab a bat in the eighth inning when the Giants got the tying run to home plate three separate times.

But manager Bruce Bochy let Ray Durham, Rich Aurilia and and Bengie Molina head for the batter's box instead (Durham as a pinch hitter) against left-hander Manny Parra -- and got only an 0-for-3 out of it. The Giants then went 1-2-3 in the ninth, and that was that.

"I had Barry available," Bochy said afterward of that eighth inning. "But they had a lefty out there, and we had some pretty good righties to send up there. ... I liked the matchup."

Once, there was a time when no righty, no lefty, no switch-hitter and no Hollywood creation in America would have seemed like a better matchup than Bonds against Manny Parra, Sandy Koufax or anybody else. But those times aren't these times.

This Barry needs his rest. This Barry has driven in a run in one game since July 3. So thanks to this trot-free Wisconsin weekend, this Barry still needs two home runs to tie Aaron's record and three to break it.

But at least he gets to head back to the 415 area code now. And he has no idea how big a relief it would be to about 9.7 trillion people if he could just somehow summon the strength to rise up and get it all over with this week, in the home of his team, his fans and his kayak paddlers.

"I'm sure they'll all be fighting for the balls out there in [McCovey] Cove," said Giants reliever Steve Kline. "There'll probably even be some submarines out there. It'll be like that movie with the girl swimming with the shark. It'll be wild. It'll be fun."

And it'll also be one more thing -- familiar.

Except for No. 714 (whomped across the bay in Oakland last year), Bonds has hit all his milestone homers in this ballpark -- No. 500, No. 600, No. 660 (tying Willie Mays) and No. 715. And now, once again, the planets and asteroids are lining up for him to do it one more time.

Yeah, it would have been a riveting plot if he'd tied this record in Milwaukee, all right. But in reality, said his longtime teammate, Aurilia, "it would be more poetic for him to do it at home, just for the fact that we've been all around the league and the one place that takes him in, no matter what, is San Francisco."

Ah, but now there's one more reason. If there is going to be a celebration of this magic, or not-so-magic moment, the commissioner has dumped the responsibility for that celebration into the laps of the Giants. And the Giants, naturally, have a few plans.

Sure, we want [the home run record] to happen in our home park. But that part can't be scripted or gerrymandered by anybody. If it happens elsewhere, that's the game of baseball.

Giants president Larry Baer

They'd prefer not to reveal those plans quite yet. But let's just say it has occurred to them this feat might be coming.

"If it happens in San Francisco, assuming it happens, we'll do something respectful and appropriate," said Giants president Larry Baer on Sunday.

But in part because it would make for a better, less uncomfortable script if it happens in San Francisco, that word "script" is one the Giants are working hard to avoid.

"Some of it has to be just of the moment," Baer said. "If you completely try to choreograph it, it all comes across as scripted. And that's not what we're striving for.

"When it happens, Barry will act a certain way. His teammates will act a certain way. And it has to happen in a way that's unscripted, and of the moment, and it feels genuine and authentic. We'll be very respectful of that, even more so than with other milestones. I think it needs to be more genuine and authentic because it's a record, not a milestone."

In fact, of course, it's not just a record. It's the record. And no matter what you might feel about the man breaking it, it's still the most momentous record in sports. So the scene, when that record tumbles, is one we'll be watching for the rest of our lifetimes.

Which means the location of this home run is going to color that scene more than just about any video moment in the history of sports. If it happens in San Francisco, it will feel like a record-breaking moment has typically felt. If it happens somewhere else, uh-oh.

"Look, I'm not going to be phony about this," Baer said. "I think common sense tells you that hitting it in his home park would be more desirable no matter who the player is. But with the dynamics we have here, sure, we want it to happen in our home park.

"But that part can't be scripted or gerrymandered by anybody. If it happens elsewhere, that's the game of baseball."

TERRIBLE 10
• Aside from his 3-for-3, 2-homer, 6-RBI game in Chicago on July 19, here's how Barry Bonds has done in the other 10 games he's played since July 5.
DATE AB R H HR RBI BB K
7/5 4 1 1 0 0 0 1
7/6 1 1 0 0 0 3 1
7/7 2 0 0 0 0 2 1
7/8 3 0 0 0 0 0 1
7/13 2 0 0 0 0 2 0
7/14 5 1 0 0 0 1 2
7/15 5 0 0 0 0 0 1
7/17 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
7/20 4 0 0 0 0 1 1
7/21 2 0 0 0 0 2 0
TOTALS 29 3 1 0 0 11 8

So the Giants are very conscious of their responsibility here to make sure Bonds breaks this record as a real baseball player -- not as some hometown promotional stunt.

Kline joked Sunday that the front office probably "wants this to drag on [as long as possible] because it will put some more butts in the seats." But the reality is, the Giants understand they can't have Bonds tiptoeing toward the record by playing all home games, then playing as much as the bat boys on the road.

"We are not going to have a situation," Baer said, "like what happened in the '70s" -- when Bowie Kuhn had to order the Braves to play Aaron on the road after he hit No. 714.

So if Bonds is going to make his hometown fan club happy, he had better get rolling. The Giants start a seven-game homestand Monday against the Braves. And Bochy has indicated that Bonds will play either five or six of those games, depending how he feels.

In another time, it would have been easy to say the stage was set for him to mash those three homers this week and let the ticker tape flow. But it's time for a quick reality check.

We are talking about a man who hasn't hit three home runs in any week since the first week of May. That's 2½ months ago.

We are talking about a man who has hit a home run in just seven of the Giants' past 67 games.

We are talking about a man whose home run ratio in that time breaks down to one homer every 27.5 plate appearances.

We are talking about a man who -- save for his remarkable 3-for-3, 2-homer, 6-RBI game Thursday in Chicago -- would be 0 for his last 27.

So the stage may be set. But don't be so sure the man it's set for is in enough of a groove to find his way to that stage in the next few days.

If he doesn't, though, the Giants' next road trip will kick off in (gulp) Dodger Stadium -- where whatever he'll be showered with certainly won't be described as love.

"Maybe he can hit it out into our bullpen," Kline chuckled, "so one of us can catch it and give it back to him. I'm just afraid some Dodger fan might jump down and stab me for it."

And so, on that cheery thought, let's all wave to the Traveling Home Run History Show as it marches by this week. With any luck, the only stabbing will come in the form of America's most-watched history chaser taking a stab at finally reaching his place in history.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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