Waiting for Bonds San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds needs to hit just one more home run to tie Hank Aaron's career record. But while waiting for the big story to break, sports correspondents around the country are confined to perpetual "Barry Watch."
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Waiting for Bonds

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Waiting for Bonds

Waiting for Bonds

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden.

Barry Bonds is going to have to wait to make history. The San Francisco Giants slugger is one homerun shy of Hank Aaron's all-time career record of 755. The home crowd would have loved to watch Bonds at least tie the record today, but he finished the game against the Florida Marlins without slugging it out of the park. In the end, the Marlins handed Bonds and his Giants an 8-5 loss.

The Giants start the road trip this coming week and the fans will be much less charitable than in the Bay Area.

NPR's Tom Goldman started following Bonds homerun chase earlier this week, and he sends us this dispatch from San Francisco.

TOM GOLDMAN: Being on the Barry watch means just that. You watch Barry Bonds to the exclusion of all else. Baseball games are reduced to his four or five at-bats. And even when he has nothing to do with the outcome of the game, you find the Barry story - like last night.

(Soundbite of people cheering)

GOLDMAN: While Giants' fans cheered their team's 9th-inning comeback win, Barry watchers in the press box knew they wouldn't be getting anything from their man - no hits, no homeruns meant no talking.

So they found the next best thing: Florida pitcher Dontrelle Willis grew up in the Bay Area idolizing Bonds. And last night, he shut down his idol, even jawing with Bonds after a one at-bat. What did Willis say?

Mr. DONTRELLE WILLIS (Pitcher, Florida Marlins): I was just having fun. He's having fun, you know. Ask him. Did you ask him this question, what did he say?

Unidentified Man: He's not talking to us.

Mr. WILLIS: Oh, that sucks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: ESPN made an entire show out of Barry watching last week, a town hall meeting in San Francisco featuring a panel of reporters and baseball people. The partisan audience could have been lifted from the stands at AT&T Park. They cheered the good Barry stuff, booed the bad.

When St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell said the doping allegations against Bonds have merit, when you consider the dramatic improvements he made as an ageing ballplayer, Burwell was treated like an umpire who just made a horrible call against the home team.

Mr. BRYAN BURWELL (Columnist, St. Louis Post-Dispatch): Barry Bonds was a great player. And then right around '99, it escalated even more. That's not normal. And I know you're fans. I understand that. You don't care if he's a cheat, just as long as he's your cheat. That's the number one ruleā€¦

(Soundbite of crowd booing)

Mr. BURWELL: That's the number one rule of fans. I understand that.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

GOLDMAN: Nothing like a homerun to snap us all back in the line. Two nights ago, Bonds stop the debate, for a few moments at least, with a towering blast to left centerfield.

Number 754, one shy of the record meant that he would talk to the Barry watchers - kind of.

How does that feel?

Mr. BARRY BONDS (Left Fielder, San Francisco Giants): Good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: Bonds actually was quite expansive, but that may change as the Giants head for hostile territory tomorrow, Los Angeles, in a series against the archrival Dodgers. For Barry watchers, the storyline becomes richer as Bonds, the record, and the debate about it all collide without the buffer of San Francisco.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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