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Of course they berated Bonds, but they also rooted for him—or at least for what he might do. Each time the Giants slugger came to the plate, entire sections rose to their feet for the biggest, most lucrative game of Three Flies Up in history. Hell, mortgages were in the balance; there were start-ups to be started up. Considering the estimated selling price of $50,000 for number 755 (the record-tying homer) and $500,000 for 756, there were plenty of reasons to urge on Bonds.
Down the leftfield line Anthony Ellis was assigned to Track Seven in the grid, unofficially known as the Bonds Watch. The security guard stood at attention, thick arms crossed over white polo shirt, dark head shaved and straddled by a headset. If Bonds hit a homer, there'd be no kids sprinting onto the field, as happened with Hank Aaron. "Someone does that," said Ellis, a former bodybuilder who, at age 50, leg presses 700 pounds in sets of 25, "and he won't make it five feet before we cream the dude. No one's getting to Barry on my watch."
And Barry? He tried to act like it was just another day at the park. "The only thing that bothers you is when your little kids are around and you've got adults acting like children," he said. Perhaps he was referring to the man in blackface in the Bonds jersey?
In the end they all waited. Only there weren't many swings. No one wanted to be on the mound for history. So Bonds watched the balls pile up, and as he did, the Dodgers fans turned on their own. They booed reliever Jonathan Broxton when he issued an intentional walk to Bonds. They hissed at starter Mark Hendrickson when he didn't serve up meatballs.
It came down to the final game of the series on Aug. 2. True to form, Dodgers righty Brett Tomko was erratic, allowing three runs in the first, but Bonds could find no purchase on his fastballs, finishing with two walks and a single before being pulled in the seventh for a pinch runner. With Bonds's exit, L.A. evacuated the Ravine. There was traffic to beat, and they'd seen Barry. And that's what this was about: seeing Barry. Which made it a peculiar phenomenon indeed. For perhaps the first time in this long, bitter rivalry, Dodgers fans wanted nothing more than to see a Giant succeed.
It Doesn't Get More Lopsided Than This
TEXAS RANGERS third baseman Travis Metcalf had gone to sleep on the night of Aug. 21 as a member of the Triple A Oklahoma RedHawks but caught a 6 a.m. flight from New Orleans to Baltimore the following morning, after he learned that the Rangers had recalled him. By the eighth inning of that day's twi-night doubleheader against the Orioles, he was circling the bases, having slugged a pinch-hit grand slam—only his second big league homer. "It was surreal," he says. "Everyone kept looking at each other like, Is this really happening?"
None of the four Orioles pitchers that afternoon allowed fewer than six earned runs or fewer than eight base runners in a 30--3 Rangers win, the most lopsided in baseball's modern era. The offensive explosion got so out of hand that manager Ron Washington instructed third base coach Don Wakamatsu to send runners around only if they could score standing up. "You don't want to seem like you're trying to bury a team," says Washington.
"It didn't work."
Leo Mazzone, who oversaw some of baseball's finest rotations for 15 years with the Atlanta Braves but was fired in October after just two seasons in Baltimore, believes that the Orioles felt the effects of the beating long afterward. Baltimore (which, incidentally, had named Dave Trembley its permanent skipper earlier in the day) went on to drop their next eight games and won only 11 of their remaining 37. "When somebody says, 'It's just one loss, regardless of the score'—that's b.s.," says Mazzone. "There was a tremendous carryover. You get so rocked and so bombed that you go, Holy mackerel. It's downright embarrassing, to be honest."