Bonds joins 60 Club

Friday, September 7, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds became the fifth player in baseball history to hit 60 home runs in a season, connecting in the second inning of San Francisco's game against Arizona on Thursday.

"That one was nice. My heart was just racing as I rounded the bases," he said after the Giants' 9-5 victory over the Diamondbacks.

Bonds got the milestone homer off Albie Lopez on a 2-2 count, and the sellout crowd at Pacific Bell Park jumped up as it sailed over the right-field wall. Jeff Kent, who had been waiting on deck, high-fived a smiling Bonds as he crossed home plate.

As the fans chanted "Barry! Barry!" Bonds made a curtain call and tipped his cap.

"You couldn't write a better story. You couldn't dream of anything better," Bonds said. "It's just unbelievable"

Bonds needs 11 homers in the Giants' final 21 games to establish a new mark.

Bonds had never hit more than 49 homers in a season before this season.

"To be in that class is pretty amazing," Bonds said after the game with his 2-year-old daughter, Aisha, sitting on his lap.

Bonds hit his 60th homer in the Giants' 141st game, reaching the mark faster than the other four sluggers.

McGwire, the previous fastest to 60, needed 142 games in 1998, the year he set the record with 70 home runs in a season.

Bonds, at 37 years and 44 days, is the oldest player to reach No. 60. He also did it in the fewest at-bats: Thursday's homer came on his 411th at-bat this season. McGwire was five days shy of his 36th birthday in 1998, and he needed 439 at-bats.

Bonds has 554 career homers, nine behind Reggie Jackson for seventh place on baseball's career list.

He hit No. 58 on Monday against Colorado and got his 59th on Tuesday against Arizona's Miguel Batista.

Lopez didn't have much to say about Bonds' 60th. The solo homer bounced on the walkway between the right-field wall and McCovey Cove and was scooped up by an unknown fan.

"It was a curveball down in the strike zone and he went and got it," Lopez said. "It got too much of the strike zone."

Ed Martinez of San Mateo, Calif., was out on the walkway for Bonds' at-bat.

"Suddenly all the heads above me in the stands look up like the ball is coming this way," he said. "It goes over the wall and bounces and takes this weird spin, and this guy dives on it."

Ever since Ruth hit 60 to break his own record for the third time, the number has held almost mythical significance among baseball players and fans. Maris' duel with Mickey Mantle in 1961 ended with Maris' record-breaking 61 homers in a summer that captivated the nation.

All eyes were focused on the longball again in 1998, when McGwire and Sosa dueled through the entire summer when McGwire finished with 70.

Bonds is unsure whether he can even approach McGwire's record.

"This is a pennant race," he said. "There's not going to be that many chances."

But it could happen.

"Anything's possible. I never thought I'd hit six in three days in Atlanta, so anything's possible," he said.

The Giants went on to beat the Diamondbacks 9-5 Thursday, pulling within 1 1/2 games of Arizona in the NL West.

"Sixty home runs, I'm finding out, is not that easy to do," said Arizona's Luis Gonzalez, who has 51 homers himself. "He's a great player to go up there, and every team is pitching around him, when he gets his one pitch he doesn't miss it. I congratulate him for hitting 60. Not many have done that."

Even Kent, who was critical of Bonds in a recent column in Sports Illustrated, was impressed.

"He's had a great year and it's nice to see him keep coming through for us and helping us win," the reigning NL MVP said. "It's been quite a feat to see him continue to stick it to the other team."

Bonds was genuinely excited about his milestone, but still said the focus should be on the pennant race.

"I'm excited," he admitted. "I'll be more excited if we get to the postseason, though."

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