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Fans, alums eager for No. 755

Fans, alums eager for No. 755

SAN FRANCISCO -- Anticipation, and soap bubbles, filled the air. Out in the bleachers and up in the suites, people fixated on their wishes to be up-close and present for the home run the baseball world awaits.

Saturday was a day unlike any other, the first time Barry Bonds pulled on his uniform within one homer of the current ceiling.

At a couple of minutes past 5 o'clock, the left-field-corner gates to the outfield grandstands opened to shouts of "Seven fifty-five, baby!"

A few hundred feet south and three levels up, former Giants attending a reunion filed into the Legends Room and one of them said, "For selfish reasons, it'd be nice if he hit it while we are here."

Everyone's wishes were held over for another day, as was Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs.

Bonds went hitless against Dontrelle Willis, but still had a good night. His self-assessed "home run thing" relented the focus to the team, as the Giants rallied in the ninth for their first four-game winning streak in 10 weeks.

With his mere threat, Bonds had influenced Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez's end strategy. Otherwise, Bonds was incidental to the outcome, after naturally starting the evening as the obsession.

The initial wave of fans had stomped down the bleacher aisles, popping wind-blown bubbles flowing out of a giddy lady's jar, sun-blinded to the first cracks of batting practice.

"I hope this is the day," said Luke Sprague, a 17-year-old from Sacramento leaning over the "Road to History" sign on the left-field wall. "A nice opp-field shot would be perfect."

Up in the fourth-floor Legends Room, members of the 1987 Giants took their first bows of a weekend dedicated to celebrating them.

"I hope to at least see him tie it," said Don Robinson, the former pitcher who, like most of the alumni, was making his first visit to AT&T Park and would stay only through Sunday. "It'd be great to see a guy I saw break in break Hank Aaron's home run record.

"I was there for his first home run, you know."

Indeed, Robinson was in the Pittsburgh Pirates' bullpen on June 4, 1986, when, in his seventh Major League game and on his 25th at-bat, Bonds sliced an opposite-field homer off Atlanta's Craig McMurtry for the first of many.

That made Robinson, as far as we could determine, one of two people in the house Saturday who had seen both Bonds' first and last -- struck Friday night here -- home runs. The other was MLB.com's own Billy Sample, who in 1986 was an outfielder with the Braves in the final stop of his nine-season career.

"I remember it," Sample said with a broad grin. "I remember seeing him hit it to the opposite field and thinking, 'Hmm, that's interesting.' You just didn't see many left-handed hitters in those days go deep the other way."

Bonds didn't go deep any which way Saturday, so his own wish to at least match Aaron at home is down to Sunday's finale against Florida. Thereafter come series in Los Angeles and San Diego -- requiring either a prolonged drought or some extra rest to return Bonds by the Bay on Aug. 6 still hunting.

Interestingly, the prospects of Bonds treating those sinister Los Angeles fans to the historic homers didn't dismay Sprague or his buddy.

"Ohhh ... I think that'd be awesome," Sprague said. "To have them boo and have him rub it in on them, that'd be great."

"Although," said Michael Cloom, 18, also from Sacramento, "I think in L.A. they'd have the class to applaud him."

"If he doesn't hit it here, it doesn't matter where -- as long as he hits it," said Shannon Wood, 35, of Stockton. "Los Angeles will be OK. Anywhere will be OK. Of course, here would be best."

The last man standing between these people and their hopes of eyewitnessing history is Sergio Mitre, a formidable obstacle. The 26-year-old right-hander is the toughest man in the Marlins rotation to homer off, by virtue of the respected sinker that tops his repertoire. In his 105 innings, Mitre has allowed six home runs, or one every third start.

Mitre might also have some homebodies rooting him on to send Bonds their way still searching for the big knock, to let them in on history: He was born in Los Angeles, attended San Diego City College.

Back in the Legends Room, five pitchers from Roger Craig's 1987 staff could compare notes about having made Bonds' hit list. Bonds actually connected for only one of his 25 homers in '87 against San Francisco -- off Jeff Robinson, on July 6 -- but in short order eventually added four others to his collection: Mike Krukow, Kelly Downs, Scott Garrelts -- and Don Robinson, the only one he got twice, for Nos. 69 (May 3, 1989) and 77 (July 13, 1989).

"I was watching when they brought Barry in for his pre-Draft workout," recalled Don Robinson, "and he was hitting balls out of Three Rivers Stadium everywhere. Left, center, right. I remember thinking, "Now that's a No. 1 Draft choice.'"

The slight man in the plaid shirt leaning against a wall got a chuckle out of being "congratulated" for the eventual retirement of his old Giants uniform.

Mike Aldrete, who wore No. 25 ahead of Bonds, said, "Yeah, but they won't be retiring it with my name on the back of it."

Maybe, by the time Mitre delivers to Bonds, the bump atop Wood's head will have subsided.

He had been glued to his TV on Friday night, when Bonds launched No. 754 in the first inning. Wood immediately jumped up to call his friend, Matt Chandler, who had bought him tickets to Saturday's game as a birthday present.

"I leaped off the sofa -- and hit my head on the fan," said Wood, pointing to a spot covered by his pinstriped "SF" cap. "I called Matt and screamed, 'He did it, man. There it is. One more.'"

"He was yelling and everything," nodded Chandler, from Concord, who understood. "We'd been looking ahead for three weeks, since I got the tickets."

They're still looking ahead. To Sunday, for certain. To Southern California, if need be. They're locked in for the duration, thrilled to be history's hostages.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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