1. While Celebrity Fades, Place in History Doesn’t - NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/29/sports/baseball/29pitcher.html...
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July 29, 2008
While Celebrity Fades, Place in History Doesn’t
By RAINER SABIN
NORFOLK, Va. — A group of Columbus Clippers is playing poker in the cramped clubhouse at Harbor Park, their
bodies hunched over a table and the cards pressed to their faces. None are recognizable, except the one with the
bald pate and blond goatee. That is Mike Bacsik, a journeyman pitcher better known as the man who gave up
Barry Bonds’s 756th home run — the one that broke Hank Aaron’s career record.
It has been almost a year since Bonds, the former Giants slugger, made that memorable jaunt around the bases at
AT&T Park in San Francisco on Aug. 7, almost 12 months since Bacsik unleashed an 84-mile-per-hour fastball
that was supposed to change his life forever.
“If you pitch in the big leagues, you’re going to give up a home run,” said Ryan Perry, Bacsik’s childhood friend.
“He just happened to give up the most famous one.”
Instead of fading away as another undistinguished player, Bacsik, a former Washington Nationals pitcher, will
remain a footnote in baseball history, joining the likes of Ralph Branca and Al Downing as pitchers linked to a
Almost immediately, Bacsik saw the benefits that could come from the role he played in Bonds’s achievement:
card shows, autograph signings, public appearances, maybe even a future career in the news media. The
hourglass counting his 15 minutes of fame was flipped the second Bonds connected, and it has not stopped, even
though the grains of sand are dwindling.
“People associate him with the home run now,” said Chris Schroder, a reliever with the Clippers. “So, obviously it
has opened up some doors financially. I know he does stuff, but I don’t think he’s done near as much as he thought
he was going to.”
There is a reason for that. As the anniversary of Bonds’s record-breaking home run approaches, neither man
involved is in the majors. Bonds, the embattled slugger, is not playing this season — seemingly exiled after a
remarkable career tainted by controversy. Last fall, he was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges
related to his testimony in a federal investigation into steroid use by elite athletes.
Bacsik, meanwhile, is in the minors, where he has scratched out a living for most of the last 13 years. After
pitching in a career high 29 major league games last year, Bacsik has spent this season with the Clippers, the
Nationals’ Class AAA affiliate.
Through Sunday, he was 7-4 with a 4.76 earned run average in 31 relief appearances. During the last few months,
he has struggled to locate his pitches and has watched fastballs he intended to throw on the outer edges of the
plate drift toward the middle, much like the one that Bonds redirected into the outfield stands last summer.
2. While Celebrity Fades, Place in History Doesn’t - NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/29/sports/baseball/29pitcher.html...
2 of 2 8/18/08 9:45 PM
Against the Norfolk Tides on Saturday, Bacsik gave up three runs and five hits in one and a third innings. But for
all of his struggles, Bacsik, 30, says he does not want to walk away from the game, even though he is almost certain
he will not be pitching in the Nationals’ organization next season.
“They’ve moved on, which has let me know that I need to move on,” he said. “It’s a mutual feeling. But I love this
game and I think I will only give it up after nobody gives me a chance.”
Bacsik seems to have other options. He had tried to carve out a career as a media personality long before he had
entered the public eye. He regularly appears on The Ticket, a sports radio station in his hometown, Dallas. During
the playoffs last year, he was a studio analyst for ESPN.
In the aftermath of the Bonds’s home run, Bacsik became a pseudo-celebrity. He faced the nation in front of a
phalanx of cameras and reporters hours after delivering that fateful pitch.
“I met him down in the locker room and we were going to go to dinner that night,” Perry said. “We come out and
he was bombarded by people who wanted his autograph. For a week or two, he was on all the radio shows and his
phone was blowing up.”
Now, it rarely rings. In the past year, baseball and the Giants have tried to distance themselves from Bonds’s
accomplishment. Over the same period, Bacsik has maintained little contact with Bonds, while slowly retreating
into obscurity. The two men who were brought together for one historical moment are now far apart, their paths
diverging from each other and the major leagues shortly after they became linked for posterity.
“In time, I will understand why this all happened,” Bacsik said. “I don’t know why it is me who gave up the home
Even more perplexing for Bacsik is how little things have changed. The clouds are hovering above the stadium
and he has only a short window of time to relax before preparing for another minor league game — away from the
spotlight, away from the throngs of fans, and away from all that surrounds that fleeting moment.
He was a journeyman pitcher again, not the man partially responsible for home run No. 756.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company