|Bonds relishes final home game with Giants after 15 seasons in San Francisco|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 26 September 2007 19:17|
The slugger jogged to the position he's held for the past 15 years, the sellout crowd roaring and on its feet as has been customary so many times during his historic yet controversial tenure. He waved in every direction and tipped his cap while a homemade banner reading ``Thank you Barry - A Giant Forever'' dangled over the wall behind him.
They stood and cheered again on Wednesday when he stepped into the on-deck circle in the first inning, and Bonds was quick with another greeting. No matter that he followed Randy Winn's two-out home run with a groundout after a competitive eight-pitch at-bat. Fans waved placards reading ``THANKS BARRY'' and flashbulbs lit up the ballpark.
More people packed McCovey Cove in kayaks in hopes of one last chance at a Bonds souvenir home run ball, a spectacular full moon in the distance.
Bonds grounded out weakly again in the fourth against Padres ace Jake Peavy and gingerly made his way back to the dugout - yet he had one more oooh-ahhh moment in him when he flied out to the warning track in right-center to end the sixth. He stayed put at 762 home runs.
Bonds then walked to the mound and shook hands and hugged Peavy before pointing to the San Diego dugout and former teammate Bud Black, who tipped his cap. Bonds clapped his hands together in the air in appreciation and pointed to various spots in the stands. He received handshakes in the dugout, then put away the bulky body armor that protects him when he crowds the plate.
Bonds headed for the clubhouse and received a hug from 17-year-old son, Nikolai, outside the door before he disappeared.
He committed a fielding error in the fifth when he bobbled Khalil Greene's two-run single, and Bonds tried to make a sliding stop on Josh Bard's single that followed.
Earlier, he stepped in for what probably were his final rounds of batting practice in a Giants uniform, cameras clicking at his every move.
Some of the San Diego Padres even came out early to catch a glimpse - with Black perched on the front of the dugout rail.
After missing 10 games because of a sprained big right toe that is worse than initially thought, Bonds was in the starting lineup and batting in his regular cleanup spot Wednesday. But he isn't scheduled to play this weekend in Los Angeles.
``This will be the only game I play in, yes,'' Bonds said.
So, this was it. The end of a history-making era for the 43-year-old home run king, seven-time NL MVP and 14-time All-Star - in the very city where he used to bounce around the clubhouse as his late father, Bobby, and godfather, Hall of Famer Willie Mays, got ready for games.
San Francisco stuck by him through allegations he began using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to fuel his pursuit of Mark McGwire's single-season home run record that he broke with 73 homers back in 2001. Bonds has long denied knowingly taking such products.
Manager Bruce Bochy took notice when he wrote Bonds into the lineup for the last time, a special piece of paper set to go into safe keeping in the Giants' archives. Bochy knows Bonds might not ever play again, too, despite the slugger insisting he wants to suit up next year somewhere.
``When you write his name into the lineup for the final time, you realize what you're doing,'' Bochy said. ``I know it's a possibility (he's done). Talking to him, he wants to play some more. He might change his mind and we could be seeing this tremendous talent play for the last time.''
About a dozen fans waited outside the player parking lot for a final chance at the slugger's autograph. Inside the ballpark, a large logo reading ``BONDS 25'' was painted on the field in black over Bonds' defensive spot.
A series of video clips - many of Bonds' milestone home runs - were shown during the game as a tribute to No. 25. Bonds was told last Thursday by owner Peter Magowan, who also watched closely as Bonds took his cuts, he would not be re-signed for a 16th season with the Giants.
``I think there's a lot of sadness,'' executive vice president Larry Baer said Wednesday. ``When you step back from the sadness, you challenge yourself to think of any other run - 15 years in one city. ... It's a very simple two words, but thank you.''
Bonds had an MRI exam on his toe Wednesday, and he was careful when he slipped his foot into his shoes as he got dressed.
``It's still swollen. I'm serious. It's still sore,'' Bonds said. ``It is not broken. That's good.''
Bonds broke Hank Aaron's record with his 756th home run in this ballpark on Aug. 7. The large banners commemorating Bonds' home run record still hang from the light posts on either side of the main center-field scoreboard.
Baer said even if Bonds plays next season in the American League, the club might consider signing him briefly so he could retire as a Giant.
Mays had to leave the Giants late in his career when he was traded to the New York Mets. The Say Hey Kid was in the clubhouse before the game and in attendance for Bonds' farewell in the waterfront ballpark where he helped bring in 3 million fans in all eight years of its existence.
``Whenever the retirement is, we'll talk and see what he wants to do,'' Baer said.