- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Bonds always has shown a knack for hitting his most special home runs at home.

Now, he will try to move past Babe Ruth in the sparkling waterfront ballpark he knows best. Bonds was not in the starting lineup for last night’s makeup game against Houston, but the Giants have six more games left in this homestand.

“I might as well keep tradition alive and do what I do,” Bonds said.

From Nos. 500, 600 and 700 to tying and passing godfather Willie Mays for third place all time to breaking Mark McGwire’s single-season record, Bonds has given fans in San Francisco a live look at history.

The Giants returned home yesterday following a cross-country flight from Philadelphia, where Bonds hit his 713th home run Sunday night to move within one of matching Ruth for second place on the all-time list.

“I think Babe Ruth is a great baseball player,” Bonds said. “Babe Ruth started all of it. He’s in a league of his own. He brought the game to a different level. He brought people to the stadium. He’s a big part of why the game is [what it is] today.”

The 41-year-old Bonds wasn’t in the lineup against the Astros, who had to come through the Bay Area on their way back from Colorado because of a rainout April 12. After a slow start, Bonds is finally providing a glimpse of the swing that has made him the most feared power hitter of his generation.

And he’s back home where they’re happy to have him despite the steroids accusations — getting a seven-game respite from the merciless treatment he receives in nearly every opposing stadium.

“I look forward to giving someone the opportunity to better their lifestyle,” Bonds said of the good fortune and financial boost that will greet the fans who collect his next two home run balls.

Phillies fans took digs at Bonds at every chance, holding signs reading “LIAR” and chanting “Ster-oids!” In San Francisco, they chant “Barry! Barry!” and wave yellow rubber chickens whenever he’s intentionally walked.

It would be somewhat fitting for Bonds to hit 714 and 715 at home, and he probably would prefer it that way. What’s more, his big moment might happen with his old manager in the opposite dugout.

The Giants open a three-game set tonight against the Chicago Cubs and Dusty Baker, Bonds’ manager for his first 10 seasons in San Francisco. They made a World Series run together in 2002 before falling short to the Angels, then Baker left afterward.

Bonds’ latest drive traveled some 450 feet to the upper deck of right field, one of the longest homers ever hit in the Phillies’ park. When Bonds gets by Ruth, he will hold the record for homers by a left-handed hitter — and only home run king Hank Aaron’s 755 will stand in front of him.

Giants manager Felipe Alou has been anxious for Bonds to get this over with, though the seven-time NL MVP hit only one homer during the Giants’ five-game trip through Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

If he had caught Ruth on the road, team officials weren’t going to pay tribute until the team returned home anyway. Major League Baseball didn’t have a celebration planned for Bonds’ move into second place.

Still, Bonds realizes how much the accomplishment means — especially playing on a right knee that underwent three operations last year and dealing with a swollen and sore left elbow.

“I think it’s the greatest thing. It’s awesome,” he said. “I really do. I may not show it a lot though. I’m just trying to keep my head screwed on straight. It’s overwhelming right now.”

Associated Press writers Mike Fitzpatrick and Dan Gelston contributed to this article.

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