August 8, 2007

Baseball Giant Homers, and Newspapers Run With It

San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, Calif., Aug. 8, 2007
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San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, Calif., Aug. 8, 2007

The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., Aug. 8, 2007
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The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., Aug. 8, 2007

The Arizona Republic, Phoenix, Ariz., Aug. 8, 2007
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The Arizona Republic, Phoenix, Ariz., Aug. 8, 2007

Daily News, New York, N.Y., April 9, 1974
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Daily News, New York, N.Y., April 9, 1974

Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa., April 9, 1974
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Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa., April 9, 1974

Minneapolis Star, Minneapolis, Minn., April 9, 1974
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Minneapolis Star, Minneapolis, Minn., April 9, 1974

New York Post, New York, N.Y., Aug. 17, 1977 (Newseum collection)
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New York Post, New York, N.Y., Aug. 17, 1977 (Newseum collection)

When Barry Bonds swung in the fifth inning on Aug. 7, he hit the baseball over the wall in right-center field at AT&T Park and onto the front page.

“Alone at the top,” the San Francisco Chronicle said after Bonds, a San Francisco Giant, broke the record for the most career home runs. Home run No. 756 came against the Washington Nationals. The Washington Post pictured Bonds “raising his arms in triumph.”

“He hits blast at home, among the faithful,” the Chronicle said, referring to the controversy over whether Bonds has used performance-enhancing drugs. A Bonds front page was published with a teaser to the “traditional front page” on A3. The historic moment also was captured on many other front pages.

“The sense of drama … was mitigated by the drawn-out length of time that it took him to hit the much-anticipated homer. But it is clearly a Page One story in Phoenix, where he’s hit so many of his homers,” said Ward Bushee, editor of The Arizona Republic in Phoenix. The Republic pictured Bonds in a centerpiece that also illustrated past home-run records. “Even in this era of steroids, Bonds broke arguably the most coveted record in sports,” said Bushee, a former sports editor.

Bonds broke the record held by Henry Aaron of the Atlanta Braves, who became the home-run king on April 8, 1974, when he eclipsed Babe Ruth’s record of 714 homers. Aaron retired two years later with 755 career home runs, a record that has stood for 31 years.

Aaron’s milestone 715th homer was recognized at the time as front-page news. “715! Henry does it,” the Daily News in New York said on its April 9, 1974, front page. Its story by famed sportswriter Dick Young read like a radio play-by-play: “A capacity crowd of over 50,000 sat through intermittent rains and cheered thunderously at Hank’s every move.”

“Aaron Erases Babe’s Record,” the Intelligencer Journal in Lancaster, Pa., said with a photo of Aaron holding up the ball that cleared the fence in left-center field.

“It was like a fantasy, with lights blinking, fireworks flashing and a full-grown 40-year-old man being hugged by his mother,” the Minneapolis Star said. “Oh, how the Babe would’ve loved it all.” In Ruth’s hometown of Baltimore, The Sun noted that Aaron was “called immediately by President Nixon, but he was in the outfield when the telephone message from the White House was put through into the Braves’ dugout.”

“If Bonds’s record lasts as long as Aaron’s, then history will be the judge,” Bushee said. “But it seems more likely that another slugger will be holding the record in a few years.” And more news will be made.

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