It’s been 15 years and almost 600 home runs since Barry Bonds first put on the orange and black No. 25. Wednesday night, in front of a sold-out home crowd, the famous — or infamous — slugger played his final game as a Giant at AT&T Park.
With the Giants in last place in the National League West Division, the game against the San Diego Padres was the team’s final 2007 home appearance. The season ends Sunday in Los Angeles against the rival Dodgers and, after the Giants announced Friday that they would not re-sign the 43-year-old slugger, if Bonds plays again at AT&T Park, it will be in another team’s uniform.
“It was an exciting 15 years, but I think it’s time to move on,” said San Bruno resident Ted Schulze, who has season tickets in Section 138, the left-field bleachers behind Bonds. “My wife and I are definitely excited to get to see the younger players get a chance to play now.”
The changes next season won’t be limited to who patrols the left-field grass or the batter’s box. AT&T Park, with its open view of the Bay and McCovey Cove — where Bonds deposited so many home runs — has a right field that seemed made for him.
No one was quite sure what type of send-off the Giants had in store for Bonds, whose star quality was a big reason the team was able to build its waterfront ballpark. “Bonds 25” was painted in left field, and the fans gave their hero a standing ovation before his first at-bat.
Marin resident William Lee, 25 — decked out in black jeans, a fitted black Giants hat and a Bonds “I got 99 problems, but a pitch ain’t one” shirt — said he was at the game to say one final goodbye to the all-time home run king.
“I know this was a business decision, but I wish he would have played one more year with the Giants,” Lee said. “I wish he had gotten a chance to win a championship one year, because he kept the team afloat all these years by himself.”
Lee said that he hopes Bonds signs with the New York Yankees for a chance at a World Series ring before he retires.
Although Bonds was an eight-time Gold Glove winner for his defensive skills, fans such as Rick Morgan said it was the home runs that marked many baseball memories.
Those prodigious blasts spawned their own culture of homer-hunting characters in the cove, identifiable on television by their costumes — like one fan who wore a Batman cowl — or famous catches like “The Man in the Yellow Kayak,” who was nearly hit with a home run ball during the 2002 NL Championship Series.
With Bonds gone, some fans think the spectacle at AT&T Park will die down.
“It’s going to be quiet next year,” Morgan said. “I think it will be easy to get a ticket.”
Tickets were anything but easy to get Wednesday. An hour before game time, fans were lined up at the park’s box offices to get one of fewer than 200 $10 standing-room-only tickets left for the game, as scalpers paced for blocks.
Historic Bonds ball is bound for Hall of Fame — with asterisk affixed
Many Americans think Barry Bonds’ historic home run record should have an asterisk next to it in the record books, but one thing is certain — the ball he hit to surpass Hank Aaron’s record will forever have one.
On Wednesday, fashion designer Marc Ecko announcedthe results of more than 10 million reported votes posted on one of his Web sites, www.vote756.com. Visitors to the site were asked to vote on three options for the ball’s fate: enshrinement in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, enshrinement after branding the ball with an asterisk or shooting the ball into space.
“It’s a marketing ploy,” Benicia resident Rick Morgan said as he walked to Bonds’ last home game as a Giant on Wednesday evening. “I’m a traditionalist, and I hate to see a mar on history like that.”
While support for the record-breaking Bonds ball being left unbranded was high around AT&T Park before the game, 47 percent of the more than 10 million votes cast online were in favor of branding the ball with an asterisk, beating enshrinement without an asterisk by 13 percentage points.
The asterisk has become a symbol for fans critical of the alleged widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in major league sports, which Bonds has been accused numerous times of taking part in.
The asterisk, those fed-up fans believe, emphasizes the difference between records set by clean athletes and those set by individuals suspected of gaining an illegal chemical edge.
“If he was a true fan doing this, he’s making a statement, but if he’s not, he’s just pimping himself,” lifelong Giants fan Ted Schulze said of Ecko. “I don’t think he’s a true fan.”
In a statement from the Hall of Fame, President Dale Petroskey said he was grateful to Ecko for donating the ball, which he purchased at auction for $752,467.
“We’re grateful to Marc for donating this baseball, which represents one of the game’s most historic records,” he said.
“Baseball belongs to the fans — it always has and always will. The asterisk represents the voice of the fans at this moment in time.”
Voice your opinion and vote in our poll at examiNation SF: What will you remember about Barry Bonds' 15 years in San Francisco?