Category Archives: Barry Bonds

The Call That Never Was

“He hits it high!  He hits it deep!  It is…OUTTA HERE!  Barry Bonds surpasses the Babe!  The Great Bambino!  The Sultan of Swat!  Home run number 715 for the best hitter I’ve ever seen, Barry Bonds!  And the crowd in San Francisco is LOVING IT!!  And why shouldn’t they!? This is the greatest moment in baseball we’ve ever been a part of…”

 

It was the call that never was for baby faced San Francisco Giants announcer Dave Fleming.  After undoubtedly much practice, thought, and fantasizing about the moment, the minute Barry Bonds maple bat ripped through the red stitching and connected for the home run that moved him into second  all time for career home runs, Dave Fleming’s KNBR microphone went dead. 

 

The mic remained dead for a full fifteen seconds as fog horns blew, fireworks lit up the sky, and Barry casually soaked it all up during a slow trot around the bases.  At the last minute Dave’s broadcasting partner tried to salvage the call, but no avail. 

 

The call that would have put Dave Fleming’s voice in Cooperstown was lost between the radio airwaves and the Curse of the Bambino. 

 

Isn’t that crazy?

 

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Summer Ain’t The Same

I still remember Opening Day, 1993, when I was 9 years old.  I remember the excitement in the air. Coming to San Francisco were the Florida Marlins, an expansion team with flashy teal colors and a roster that boasted catcher Charlie Johnson as their main attraction.  The real excitement came with the Giants new main big ticket- a cocky diamond earring wearing left fielder who had recently signed the largest deal ever for an athlete.

 

Summertime sunshine has always equated to more home runs by Barry Bonds.  Sometimes his home run total was greater than the average San Francisco temperature.  As the temperatures in Phoenix consistently remain at 112 degrees, meaning summertime is in full swing, I find myself living a decidedly different summer than I have in years past.

 

I do not tune into SportsCenter to catch the box score of the San Francisco Giants games.  I have not pirated baseball games using a friend of a friend of a friend’s username and password at MLB.com.  I have little interest in whoever roams the grass in left field at AT&T park, or even how they’re doing in replacing the largest shoes ever left behind. 

 

As my faded black and orange jersey with the number 25 stitched on the back hangs on my bedroom wall, the feeling is that summer without Barry Bonds just doesn’t seem right.

 

 

 

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The Most Memorable Barry Bonds Home Runs

Barry Bonds has hit many momentous home runs in his career.  Let me run some numbers by you.  500.  600.  660.  700.  714.  755.  756.  71.  73.  Those are the numbers many fans will remember Barry by. 

 

Since the age of eight, Barry has impacted and added excitement to my life through his home runs.  But none of the numbers mentioned above are among the ones that live on in my memory.  Here are my five favorite home runs hit by the cockiest, most egotistical and conceded, yet entirely lovable player that ever played.

 

5)      Although I wasn’t actually at this game, I watched it on TV.  It was game 2 in Anaheim, in that series that we Giants fans don’t talk about.  It’s the ninth inning, we’ve lost the game already, and Barry is batting against the Angels closer.  With the best fastball in the pitcher’s bag, Barry hit the ball further than the cameras could track it.  The only usable footage from the whole scenario was when Angels designated hitter Troy Glaus, known for knocking balls a mile long as well, was caught saying that the ball Barry hit was “the hardest ball I’ve ever seen hit.”  I still don’t know if that ball ever landed.  No camera caught it landing.  All I know is that Barry didn’t see another pitch to hit until spring training. 

 

4)      Going off of the longest balls ever seen hit theme, home run number 699 in Phoenix was the longest I’ve ever seen.  I was with my girlfriend at the time, seated nicely in the right field bleachers, hoping for the chance to catch number 700 while attempting to convert my girl from a Diamondback to a Giants fan.  Barry gets up, again in the ninth, with the Giants winning by five or so runs.  He has played all game, but is oh for oh, with three walks.  The hometown fans have booed their own team more than Barry for their four fingered decisions.  Jose Cruz, that a hundred and thirty pound relief pitcher with more confidence in fastball than Kanye in his lyrics tried to blow one by Barry in a two oh count.  That fastball hit off the jumbo tron, just below Barry’s smiling face, and a guy who had seen fourteen balls and one strike all game had just hit a ball four hundred and seventy-two feet into dead center.  My girlfriend was mad because we didn’t get the ball.  I was in awe.  The next pitch Pedro Felix hit a ball that would have decapitated anyone in its path one row behind us. 

 

3)      We know Barry Bonds doesn’t do BP.  Its always a disappointment showing up two hours early to a game to see someone like Omar Vizquel slap bloopers to the opposite field when you want to see Barry park them in the bay.  But one day I got lucky.  I saw from my left field bleacher seat that number 25 was strolling to the cage.  I got up and raced to Old Navy’s splash landing in hopes of seeing his balls fly over my head and into the water.  As I jogged over to the area, Barry hit a ball right at me, in deep right center.  I usually bring my glove, but of course, not today.  It was a line drive, which I put my hands up partly in defense, and partly in hopes of having a barehanded catch.  Whatever hopes of being the hero diminished when the ball went right through my hands and smashed into my jaw, with the ball dropping to the ground and six people swarming in for a chance at a BP Barry ball.  Adrenaline stymied the pain, I scooped up the ball on one bounce, and I went home with a souvenir from the bat adorned with those golden butterfly emblems.

2)      Besides BP, Barry doesn’t do overtime.  He is usually out by the eighth inning, but since it was a beautiful opening day in April, Barry had to stick around until his at bat in the tenth.  With runners on first and second, no outs, my whole little league baseball team stood on Old Navy’s splash landing with standing room only tickets.  With the first pitch he saw, Barry ended the game with a walk off homer down the right field line.  What I remember is that he did it with so much grace, so much ease, that it was as if he perform the same feat at any time he wanted. 

 

1)      My dad coached me for eleven years in Little League.  We always had a connection on the playing field, with him offering me pointers, encouragement, support, and I absorbing everything he had to say.  Our relationship was at its best when we were between the lines.  When he came down to visit me in Tucson one year during my time at the University of Arizona, we made the hundred mile drive to Phoenix to see the Giants take on the D’Backs.  We had bought tickets months in advance in the left field bleachers to watch our star lazily assume his role in left field.  The problem was, Barry hadn’t played in three weeks.  Bobby Bonds, his father, who Barry had always made it clear that the two were close with baseball, had passed away.  Barry was taking it very hard, from what we had read in the press.  I remember the pre-game show mentioning that he had flown from Los Angeles to Phoenix the night before, for the last game of the series, but wasn’t expected to play.  As my dad and I watched Randy Johnson pop the catcher’s mitt in the bullpen during warm-ups, we heard the Giants lineup announced.  Batting fourth and playing left field…

 

The first pitch Barry saw from Randy Johnson was an inside fastball that landed in the back of the right field bleachers.  It was unbelievable to see that moment transpire.  Everything seemed like it was slow motion.  Barry rounded third like a Little Leaguer being forced to run out to right field, but when he crossed home plate his traditional, “point to the sky” was ten times longer than it usually is. 

 

There could be no better moment for my dad, who had been taking me to Bay Area baseball games since the time I could talk, and I to share.

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The Purity of Baseball: Told Through Two At Bats By Benito Santiago

An unfamiliar scene has begun to unfold in the China Basin over the past few weeks, as the Embarcadero has seen its bayside, city street flooded with people wearing orange.  It looks like construction workers have gone on evening strikes a few times a week and marched towards Pac Bell Park, but the orange sardines in Muni bus windows have belonged to San Francisco Giant loyalists, thankful that baseball season in 2002 has lasted longer than three days in October. It is Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, where the visiting St. Louis Cardinals are tied up with the Giants at 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning.  Rick White, a 34 year old journeyman right hander on his fifth team since being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates eight years ago, turns his grizzly beard to the runner on second before winding up and delivering a mediocre forkball to the plate. With two outs and two strikes, Giants catcher Benito Santiago chokes up and spits in the dirt. His withered and worn wrinkles show every one of his sixteen years in the majors as his eyes grimace and get ready for White.  Benito’s lanky, every man’s stance doesn’t portray the power of a five spot slugger that hits behind Barry Bonds, but this year has been different.  He has had a resurgence, unlikely for a thirty-seven year old catcher, but nonetheless has slugged more homers this year than the last two combined, and has continued to throw out base stealers from his knees.  With the coolness of the fog that clouds the crisp San Francisco air, Benito swings.

 

 It would be uncharacteristic if it were any other day in early April. But it is understandable that a crystal blue sky with little to no wind was granted by the baseball gods because it is Opening Day at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, and like Opening Days tend to be, it is perfect.  Daytime fireworks.  Headline artists for the national anthem. Players signing autographs who normally don’t.  Red, white, and blue balloons are released in the air after the Blue Angel jet fighter crew flys at a sonic boom pace overhead.       Besides the allure of Opening Day, cheery, optimistic Giants fans have sold out the stadium today for two reasons: to see the cocky, arrogant, gold crossed earning wearing, largest contract acquiring, son of Bobby Bonds take left field on his first day playing in front of a Giant crowd; the other, to see the teal colored Florida Marlin expansion team play their first game outside of Miami. In the second inning, batting behind Will Clark and Matt Williams, Barry hits a solo shot over the chain linked right field fence.  The fog horn in center field emphatically bellows as Bonds rounds first.  I watch the scene unfold from an upper deck seat in between right field and the first base line.  With a wooden spoon lodged in my mouth, I hurriedly scribble in my scorecard to signify a home run in the second for Mr. Bonds, his first in San Francisco as a Giant, and then get back to my chocolate malt.

 

 Ill-advised fans usually scream their heads off when the ball hits the bat in a pressure packed situation.  From the fan viewpoint in centerfield, the upper deck, even behind the plate, any ball hit in the air has a chance at going out of the park. Maybe it was because the forty thousand screaming fans were already screaming.  Maybe it was a result of low expectations because of who was holding the bat with two strikes. But when that baseball first hit the bat, there was a still silence that came over the forty thousand fans at Pac Bell Park.   

Once the brief, day dreamy Disney-like moment (where the aging catcher connects for one last time) has passed, hope and happiness erupt as the ball makes its skyward ascent.  Like a leaflet dropped from an jet plane, a baseball floats into the hands of a fan in the sixteenth row of the left field bleachers.  My dad and I turn to each other with bewildered, “did that really just happen” looks on our faces.  The next day, the Giants win the pennant and go to the World Series.  Benito Santiago is named National League Championship MVP.

   The Florida Marlins are making the Giants left handed starting pitcher Trevor Wilson look much better than he actually is.  He has worked through five and two-thirds innings of scoreless, flawless baseball before allowing his first run on a double to first baseman Orestes Destrade. With two outs, Trevor Wilson looks over his left shoulder to hold the runner at second, and then delivers a mediocre fastball. 

Lanky, withered, working man Benito Santiago lines the chest high meatball over the left field, chain link fence.  The newly installed bleachers, possibly installed to bring the fans closer to the Giant’s new star in left field, chant for the ball to be thrown back where it belongs.  Succumbing to peer pressure, a fan whirls it over the head of Barry Bonds towards shortstop Royce Clayton, who playfully picks it up and tosses it to the umpire.  With my wooden spoon still lodged in my mouth and no chocolate malt left to dip it into, I begrudgingly scribble a home run for Mr. Santiago into my scorecard, which happens to be the Florida Marlins first home run in franchise history.

 In light of Senator Mitchell’s reports today, I felt I had to write something baseball oriented.  Benito Santiago was named in Mitchell’s report, as were twelve other former Giants (not all of whom took steroids while on the team) for taking steroids. One experience described above, in 1993, when chocolate malts with wooden spoons and scorecards in opening day programs were the priority, was when virtually no one besides the Bash Brothers across the bay were on steroids.  The other, when fans were dumbstruck at the sight of a ball poetically being placed in the stands to send a team to the World Series, was when the majority of the league was.   

Say what you will about steroids, but these two games, these two book ends to Benito Santiago’s career, will always stick out in my head as pure moments in baseball. 

Benito Santiago     Benito Santiago

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