SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – In a remarkable coincidence, Mike Bacsik and his father both had the rare opportunity to face a great home run slugger with 755 home runs.
The only difference is that the father didn’t allow Hank Aaron to hit another one 31 years ago and the son did give one up to Barry Bonds – the record-breaking 756th, in fact.
“If my dad had been gracious enough to let Hank Aaron hit a home run, we both would have given up 756,” Bacsik said after allowing the milestone homer in Washington’s 8-6 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night.
Bacsik showed no fear of the daunting task, pitching to Bonds all three times he faced him, and had no shame for his role, pointing to the 444 other pitchers who have given up home runs to Bonds.
But it’s the shot off Bacsik that will likely be replayed most.
“You either have to be a really special player to be remembered in this game or part of a special moment,” Bacsik said. “I didn’t want to give up the home run but, I’m lucky to be part of a really special moment in sports history.”
Bacsik now goes down in history with Al Downing, the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who gave up Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run back in 1974. Downing won 123 games and pitched in three World Series in a 17-year career, but most people only know him for the one pitch he threw to Aaron on April 8, 1974.
Bacsik joked before the game that he and Downing could do card shows together if he gave up the homer to Bonds.
“Me and Al Downing I guess will be linked for a long time,” Bacsik said. “Hopefully I can win 20 games and be an All-Star like him one day.”
Bacsik is a journeyman who spent most of his 12-year pro career in the minors, including a stint in Triple-A to begin this season.
He said he didn’t want to pitch around Bonds and was willing to challenge him with a 3-2 fastball in the fifth inning. Bonds drove it to right-center field, the deepest part of the ballpark for the record-breaker.
“There was nobody on base and one out,” Bacsik said. “I wanted to go after him. I was trying to get him out and I threw him a pitch that he really likes to hit. And he did.”
Bacsik didn’t need to watch the ball sail out of the ballpark. He knew from the sound it made when it hit Bonds’ maple bat and the reaction from the slugger – Bonds threw both arms over his head – that he had just given up the record-breaking homer.
Bacsik walked behind the mound and was consoled by teammates when Bonds rounded the bases. He then retreated to the dugout to regain his composure and watch the celebration.
Bacsik, an avid collector of sports memorabilia, talked with Bonds after allowing the record-breaker and was given an autographed bat as a memento.
“I dreamed about it as a kid but unfortunately when I dreamed about it I was the one hitting the home run,” Bacsik said.
Like Bonds, Bacsik is the son of a major leaguer. He and his father, also named Mike, enjoy a truly remarkable connection. While Clyde and Jaret Wright and Pedro Borbon Sr. and Jr. are among the father-son pitching tandem to face the two sluggers, only the Bacsiks got the chance when both had 755 career home runs.
Definitely like father, like son.
“That is truly amazing,” the father said in a telephone interview before the game. “At the time I just knew it was the great Hank Aaron. I wasn’t thinking about the fact he had 755 home runs.”
While the father avoided giving up No. 756, the son wasn’t as lucky.
The elder Bacsik watched the game at his home in Arlington, Texas, predicting he’d be so nervous that he would vacuum the house “five or six times” during the game.
A few hours before his son took the mound, Bacsik recalled his meeting with a Home Run King. On Aug. 23, 1976, he entered the game for Texas in relief of Jim Umbarger in the fourth inning and faced Aaron twice. He retired him on a flyout the first time and then allowed an infield single in Aaron’s second at-bat.
“I had a lot of respect for him. He was a great baseball player,” Bacsik said. “But at the time, his bat had slowed down a bit. He wasn’t as quick as he used to be. But he was a super smart hitter. If you made a mistake, he could make you pay. I was more of sinker, slider, hard-throwing guy. I didn’t want to throw him anything soft because he could hook a ball out.”
Bacsik spent five years in the majors, going 8-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 73 games. He also faced Bonds’ father, Bobby, allowing an RBI single in two at-bats against him in 1979.