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Bonds touched by teammates' gesture

Bonds touched by mates

MIAMI -- As a final touch to the champagne toast Giants players had for Barry Bonds after he hit his Babe Ruth-passing 715th homer this past Sunday in San Francisco, several of his teammates have sent out the wine glasses used for the occasion to be inscribed with the date of the milestone blast -- May 28, 2006.

Those tall, slender wine glasses, commonly known as flutes, were purchased along with a half-dozen bottles of champagne by Mark Sweeney and Todd Greene, both new to the team this season. The flutes were originally engraved with the number 715 on one side and the date will now appear on the other.

Sweeney and Greene, who befriended Bonds during Spring Training, had planned the toast as a surprise for weeks. Bonds hit homer No. 713 in Philadelphia on May 7, and the wait for the milestone homers seemed to be interminable at times. But Bonds said he was not surprised by the reaction of his teammates.

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"Not with this team, not at all," Bonds said. "They've stood behind me since Day 1 of Spring Training. Since the beginning. Like I said [Sunday], this group as a whole is the best I've ever played with in my entire life. It's just overwhelming the way they've treated me."

The added inscription should be done by the time the Giants return home Monday from this current road trip for a night game at AT&T Park against the Marlins. Sweeney said everyone in the Giants clubhouse will get one as a keepsake for having been there the day Bonds went into second place on the all-time list and also became the top lefty-swinging home run hitter in baseball history.

"We made six special ones for [Bonds]," Sweeney said. "Everyone who was there -- players, the manager, coaches, training staff, clubhouse personnel -- are going to get one of the glasses. Hopefully, he'll sign them. One team photographer was there to capture the moment. I think it was classy. That's what we wanted. We didn't want a long, drawn-out thing. We wanted to basically signify what it meant to us.

"Hopefully, he'll remember that as a special moment. I think it was a special moment for him, personally."

Bonds, who was out of the starting lineup Wednesday night against the Marlins for the second straight game at Dolphin Stadium, was so touched by the gesture that he has continued to wax eloquent about it in the days after the event.

"The funny part is that it brought out a softer side of me, and I don't want to go back to being the other person," said Bonds, who has often been called unapproachable inside the confines of the clubhouse.

Bonds has been plagued by soreness in his lower back and surgically repaired right knee, but his absence from the lineup this week seemed to be as much to take a breather from the pressure of tying and passing the Great Bambino. Bonds took a day off in Houston on May 17 and then began a stretch of starting nine of the team's next 10 games.

to the babe and beyond

Bonds is now 40 homers behind Hank Aaron, the all-time leader with 755. But he has hit only two of his seven homers on the season in his last 73 plate appearances -- No. 714 on May 20 at Oakland and Sunday's No. 715.

As soon as Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Rockies ended, the clubhouse doors were closed and the toast was made for Bonds. Manager Felipe Alou had a few comments and Bonds formally addressed the group, thanking them for their support this season.

The team threw its collective weight behind Bonds the first week of March when excerpts from the book "Game of Shadows" came out, documenting his alleged steroid use from 1999 to 2002.

In the aftermath of that article, the players called a meeting and Steve Finley made an impassioned speech to the group, saying that no matter what was said in the media, the players needed to support the 41-year-old Bonds.

Finley and Sweeney have the experience. They played with the late Ken Caminiti on the 1998 National League pennant-winning Padres and supported the former MVP third baseman as his career deteriorated and ultimately his life ended because of drug use.

Sweeney said he has gained even more respect for Bonds as he has watched him play under all the external pressure this season.

"You look at all the problems he's had," said Sweeney, who was in the on-deck circle Sunday when Bonds homered off Rockies right-hander Byung-Hyun Kim. "Even with his knee, he still goes out and gives you everything he has. We're a better team with him."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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