Remembering Bonds' 5 biggest Giants homers
SAN FRANCISCO -- Some were awe-inspiring. Many were historic. None, it seemed, were boring.
That defines Barry Bonds' catalog of home runs during his 22-year career. He hit a Major League-record 762 of them, including 586 for the Giants from 1993-2007.
On Saturday, the Giants will salute Bonds by retiring his jersey No. 25 in ceremonies preceding their game against the Pirates, with whom he spent his first seven big league seasons. He didn't become truly synonymous with the long ball, however, until he migrated to San Francisco as a free agent.
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So here's a collection of five home runs that ranked among the biggest he hit with the Giants. Anybody could pick five different homers and compile a list that's just as definitive. That would be legitimate, since Bonds hit so many to choose from.
Here are our five:
Home at last
April 12, 1993
It's safe to say that this ranked among the most meaningful home openers in Giants history.
Nearly sold during the offseason to a group that would have moved the franchise to St. Petersburg, the Giants were in the hands of the Peter Magowan-led ownership group that knew it had to find an alternative to Candlestick Park. But on this sunny afternoon, everybody was happy just to have the Giants still around. The paid attendance, a regular-season record 56,689, conveyed this joy.
It was a blessed day for the Giants and their fans. Tony Bennett delivered a stirring rendition of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Bonds added an encore in his first home at-bat as a Giant, launching a second-inning homer off Florida's Chris Hammond. This would be no ordinary trip around the bases. As Bonds rounded first, he high-fived his father, Bobby, the team's hitting and first-base coach.
Having grown up in nearby San Carlos, Calif., Bonds was truly home.
Dancing for the Dodgers
Sept. 17, 1997
For the second-place Giants, this was the first of two critical encounters with the archrival Dodgers, who led them by two games in the National League West standings.
Having endured sub-.500 seasons in five of the previous six seasons, the Giants were sick of losing. So were their fans, including 56,625 who paid their way into Candlestick to see a thriller.
Bonds immediately established the Giants' presence, belting a two-run, first-inning homer off Chan Ho Park. The pro-Giants crowd didn't cheer. It exploded, bellowing at full volume. Displaying showmanship that must have irked the Dodgers, Bonds spun in a mini-pirouette shortly after leaving the batter's box. The Giants hung on to win, 2-1, setting up Brian Johnson's game-winning homer the next day for San Francisco in a 6-5, 12-inning triumph. That lifted the Giants into a tie atop the NL West standings with the Dodgers; San Francisco proceeded to capture the division title.
April 17, 2001
It wasn't just that Bonds joined a select group of sluggers with this milestone. It also won a game against the Dodgers, and it was a homer that was properly celebrated by the Giants' greatest legends.
The Giants trailed, 2-1, when Rich Aurilia tripled to lead off San Francisco's eighth. Issue an intentional walk? No. The Dodgers elected to pitch to Bonds, who made that decision all wet when he drove Terry Adams' 2-0 delivery into McCovey Cove. That made him the 17th big leaguer to reach the 500-homer mark. The game was stopped as Bonds embraced family members and posed for pictures with Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, longtime members in good standing of the "500" club.
Fall Classic clout
Oct. 20, 2002
If Bonds had a shortcoming in his game, it was his postseason performance. Through three NL Championship Series with Pittsburgh and two NL Division Series with San Francisco, he owned a puny .196 (19-for-97) batting average with one home run.
That changed dramatically in 2002.
Bonds hit three homers in the NLDS against the Braves, including one in the Game 5 clincher. He added six RBIs in the five-game NLCS against St. Louis.
Then he peaked. Bonds belted four home runs vs. the Angels in the seven-game World Series, including a Game 2 wallop at Angel Stadium that amazed all who witnessed it. Bonds smacked it in the ninth inning off closer Troy Percival as television cameras caught Halos star Tim Salmon saying, "That's the farthest ball I've ever seen hit."
This was the pre-Statcast™ era, so it had to be generally agreed that Bonds' homer traveled an estimated 485 feet.
Aug. 7, 2007
Linked by various reports to baseball's performance-enhancing-drug saga, Bonds was widely regarded as a polarizing figure. Nevertheless, the Giants consistently played to sellout crowds on the road and, of course, at home as Bonds chased Hank Aaron's standard of 755 homers.
The record breaker was like most of Bonds' homers. Estimated at 435 feet, it was a sure thing from the time it left the bat. Bonds clobbered a 3-2 delivery from Washington's Mike Bacsik over AT&T Park's right-center-field barrier. Bonds was greeted at home plate by his son, Nikolai, then engulfed by Giants teammates and coaches before family members joined him on the field.
Interestingly, Bacsik's father, also named Mike, faced Aaron and held him to a flyout on Aug. 23, 1976, as a member of the Texas Rangers.
The Giants showed a brief but gracious video message from Aaron, who congratulated Bonds on breaking the record he held for 33 years and expressed the hope that "the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams."