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05 Aug 2007 09:14
San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds hit the 755th home run of his career on Saturday, tying the Major League Baseball all-time record held by Hank Aaron since 1974.
The controversial slugger slammed the landmark homer, a 611m blast into the Petco Park leftfield stands, off San Diego Padres right-handed pitcher Clay Hensley in his first at-bat of the game in the second inning.
A majority of the sell-out crowd cheered as Bonds circled the bases and was greeted by teammates before he hugged his 17-year-old son Nikolai at home plate.
The same crowd had lustily booed the outfielder just moments earlier when he strode to the plate.
“The hard part is over right now,” Bonds told reporters after the game, won 3-2 by San Diego in 12 innings.
“This is the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my entire career,” he added. “I had rashes on my head, I felt like I was getting sick at times.”
The record-tying hit came at a venue where a giant syringe was thrown on the field by a fan last season in protest of Bonds’s long-rumoured use of performance-enhancing drugs, which critics claim has fuelled his surge in the past few years.
However, Bonds would not be drawn into questions about steroids, saying: “I don’t think we’re here to discuss those matters.
We have a great steroid policy in the sport of baseball.
The slugger said he would sit out the final game of the series on Sunday, giving him a chance to break the record in a seven-game homestand that opens against the Washington Nationals on Monday.
The left-handed hitter had gone to bat 27 times since he struck his last home run in San Francisco on July 27.
While some still jeered as Bonds took his position in leftfield for the bottom half of second inning, most gave the 43-year-old a standing ovation and he responded by tipping and waving his cap to the stands.
Bonds turned around between pitches from his defensive post to take a long look at the spot where his home run had landed.
“I want to thank the fans. They have been outstanding,” Bonds added.
“I really appreciate the way San Diego and their fans handled it.”
The specially marked ball ended up in the hands of 33-year-old plumber Adam Hughes of San Diego suburb La Jolla, who said after the game that he was not sure what he will do with the ball.
Aaron’s 755th home run ball sold for $650Â 000 at an auction in 1999 and Bonds’s 73rd home run ball when he broke the record for the most in a season six years ago sold for $517Â 500.
The slugger was walked in his next three at-bats before leaving the game for a pinch runner in the top of the eighth.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig was at the game to witness Bonds’s blast but offered a fairly lukewarm response to the feat.
“Congratulations to Barry Bonds as he ties Major League Baseball’s home run record,” Selig said in a statement issued by his office during the game.
“No matter what anybody thinks of the controversy surrounding this event, Mr Bonds’s achievement is noteworthy and remarkable.”
However, the statement went on to add: “As I said previously, out of respect for the tradition of the game, the magnitude of the record and the fact that all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty, either I or a representative of my office will attend the next few games and make every attempt to observe the breaking of the all-time home run record.”
Bonds, who points out that he never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, is under investigation by a San Francisco grand jury for tax evasion and perjury. - Reuters
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