Barry Bonds took 111 swings in an empty ballpark Saturday afternoon, one of the game’s greatest hitters working to find his famously short, quick stroke.
On his 112th, he found it. And he made history.
Bonds matched Hank Aaron’s all-time record of 755 home runs, hammering an outside fastball from San Diego Padres right-hander Clay Hensley over the left field wall in the second inning at Petco Park for his 755th career home run.
San Diego’s normally laid-back crowd responded with cheers and flashing cameras amid an undercurrent of boos as Bonds rounded the bases, strode across home plate, picked up teenage son, Nikolai, and carried him to the edge of the grass.
His Giants teammates, who had endured a wait of seven games and 27 plate appearances since Bonds’ 754th home run July 27, walked out of the dugout and greeted him off to the side.
Then Bonds walked over to the backstop and kissed his wife through the mesh screen. He hugged Sue Burns, who owns the largest stake in the team, before descending into the dugout. The delay wasn’t more than two or three minutes.
Bonds was 2-for-18 between home runs and struggled to make hard contact but trudged on. He was playing in his ninth consecutive game, and was due to rest on Sunday.
Bonds had struggled so badly on the road trip that he hit on the field for nearly 45 minutes prior to the game, going through two batting practice pitchers. After he exhausted Manager Bruce Bochy, hitting coach Joe Lefebvre took over.
Such hitting sessions are uncommon for Bonds outside of spring training, especially for a 43-year-old who has trouble maintaining his energy level from one day to the next.
Bonds appeared determined to tie the record as soon as possible, increasing the likelihood he can hit the record breaker during the Giants’ seven-game homestand that begins Monday against the Washington Nationals.
He still had time Saturday night, although the Padres gave Bonds almost nothing to hit after his first at-bat, walking him three times. After the third walk, with one out in the eighth inning, Bonds left the game for a pinch runner.