Bonds pulls within one of Aaron's all-time mark with 754th career homer
SAN FRANCISCO -- Hammerin' Hank, he's right behind you now.
Barry Bonds hit his 754th career home run Friday night, and needed just one more to tie Hank Aaron's record.
The Giants star sent a 2-1 pitch from rookie Rick Vanden Hurk over the wall in left-center in the first inning for a solo shot against the Florida Marlins, his 20th homer of the season. The Giants went on to win 12-10.
Bonds walked in his next four at-bats and will keep up his pursuit Saturday night, when Dontrelle Willis starts for the Marlins.
Bud Selig wasn't there to see it, sending MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy in his place. The commissioner was back in Milwaukee, preparing to go to Sunday's Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Bonds did hear from Michael Jordan, though. A taped message from the NBA great played on the video board between innings.
After a brief pause to put specially marked baseballs in play, Bonds drew ball one and ball two -- with boos raining down on Vanden Hurk -- before a called first strike. Then, the 96 mph fastball was gone -- a drive estimated at 420 feet.
As usual, Bonds stood and watched his ball sail away, then began yet another trot and pumped his fist along the way. "754" flashed on the main scoreboard and Bonds blew kisses to his family when he crossed home.
Fans, already on their feet for Bonds' first at-bat, screamed in delight when it was clear he had homered -- Bonds' first at home since he connected for No. 750 on June 29 against Arizona's Livan Hernandez. "Barry! Barry!" they chanted as he rounded the bases.
The fan who retrieved No. 754 was Eric Stormer, a general contractor and season ticketholder from nearby Martinez.
In his first chance to tie Aaron, Bonds walked on five pitches in the third inning. He also walked in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings.
Home is certainly where his heart is. Bonds has hit many of his milestone homers here -- Nos. 500, 600 and 700 along with 660 and 661 to tie and pass his godfather, Hall of Famer Willie Mays. This is also where he hit 715 last May 28 to pass Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. No. 714 came across San Francisco Bay in Oakland.
In 2001, Bonds hit the final three of his 73 homers at home, breaking Mark McGwire's season record of 70.
Bonds had gone homerless in five games and 18 at-bats since hitting two against the Chicago Cubs on July 19 at Wrigley Field. He had been 3-for-18 since his previous homer, but said he didn't think he was overswinging.
He has said he's a bit distracted when the commemorative balls are worked in for each of his plate appearances.
"When they stop it for a second and switch baseballs, it's very hard to not know something's happening right in front of you," Bonds said after his two-homer game in Chicago.
The slugger went out to his spot in left field in the top of the second with fans pounding the outfield fence in celebration. Bonds turned to acknowledge them with a wave of his cap.
A "Road to History" tribute played on the main center-field scoreboard with the greeting from Jordan.
"Hey Barry, it's Michael Jordan," his message said. "I just want to congratulate you on your historic event. I'm very happy for you. Ever since the first day I saw you in the batting cage, you've been working toward this for a long period of time. So I want to wish you and Elizabeth and that beautiful girl of yours congratulations. I'm very happy for you."
Selig is scheduled to be in Los Angeles starting Tuesday, when the Giants open a series against the rival Dodgers. Aaron has said he won't be there when his 33-year-old record falls.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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