Reliving History: Barry Bonds Number 756
At Oracle Park there is a plaque that is hung on a brick facade in the right-center field bleachers. The six-foot-tall plaque is the shape of a badge that one would typically find on a police officer. Written on it is the last name of arguably that greatest power hitter of all-time, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants. Underneath his name is the number 756 and beneath that number is a date, August 7, 2007. On this date, Barry Bonds broke one of the greatest records in baseball history when he hit his 756th career home run.
So whose record did Bonds break? Well, if you don’t know the answer, then you probably aren’t the biggest baseball fan. That is okay though as some people don’t know how many times a human has walked on the moon either. The previous home run king was a man named Hank Aaron. Over the course of his career, Aaron hit 755 home runs, which is not too shabby. He had held the home run record since April 8, 1974 when he hit his 715th home run. The previous holder of the hallowed record was, you guessed it, the Great Bambino himself, Babe Ruth. The Babe had held the record since July 18, 1921 when he hit his 139th home run and surpassed a fellow named Roger Connor.
August 7, 2007
Bacisk and a Mistake
Hank Aaron’s home run record was broken on a clear August night in San Francisco. The last place Giants were host to the last place Washington Nationals. 43,154 ravenous fans were crammed into AT & T Park (currently Oracle Park) to see Barry Bonds topple the granddaddy of baseball records. He had tied Aaron three days earlier at San Diego’s Petco Park. Hometown fans were eager to see him break the record and Bonds was not going to disappoint.
Pitching for the Nationals that night was Mike Bacsik. Unbeknownst to Bacsik, he was about to cement his place in baseball history. In Bonds’ first plate appearance in the bottom of the second, he hit a line shot double to left-center field. The next inning, Bonds singled with two out and scored on a Bengie Molina home run. During the bottom of the fifth, with one down, Bonds strode to the plate for the third time. It’s safe to say that Bonds was keyed in on what Bacisk was throwing. He worked the count full, hunting for his pitch. Bacisk threw a curve that Bonds fouled off. Then he threw an 86 mph fastball that missed its spot, but Bonds didn’t miss and tattooed the mistake into the right-center field bleachers.
Bonds knew immediately and thrust his hands into the air. As he rounded the bases the right-center field bleachers looked like an ant hole that had honey dumped on it. The sky exploded with orange fireworks. Giants fans were driven mad with joy, cheering, slapping five, dancing, and even weeping. It looked like a happy version of one of the circles of Dante’s Inferno. When Bonds completed his triumphant lap, he embraced his son at home and pointed to the sky in honor of his late father, Bobby Bonds. The record was finally his. Even Hank Aaron, who had been aloof for most of Bonds’ chase, appeared in the form of a video message on the scoreboard, congratulating Barry and his “historical achievement.”
And Everything After for Barry Bonds
Number 756 was Bonds’ 22nd home run of the 2007 campaign. He would go on to hit six more and end the season with 28, bringing his career total to 762. Bonds never played another season of Major League Baseball. Of course, Bonds will always be linked to performance enhancing drugs, like so many of the players of that era. With the latest Hall of Fame inductions being announced on January 26th, it’s hard to overlook all of his accomplishments, PED’s or not. He was a seven-time MVP, a fourteen-time All-Star, twelve-time Silver Slugger recipient, and an eight-time Gold Glove winner. Bonds is approaching his final year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame in 2022, and while he is one of the leading vote-getters this year, it does not look like he is going to get the 75% required.
Regardless of his induction into the Hall of Fame, or the lack there of, Bonds is a legend of the game. While awards and accolades are nice, nothing can take away the magic of that perfect San Francisco night and the indelible mark that Bonds left on baseball history.
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