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Bonds Finishes With 73 Home Runs

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Barry Bonds needed a touch of patience to cap his remarkable season.

Bonds hit his 73rd homer off a tantalizingly slow knuckleball, shattering Babe Ruth's 81-year-old record for slugging percentage and leading the San Francisco Giants to a season-ending 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.

Bonds, perhaps playing his final game in a Giants uniform, homered off Dennis Springer in the first, singled in the third, popped out in the sixth and flied out in the eighth.

``Today's home run, I was just in shock,'' Bonds said. ``The chance of hitting a home run off a guy who throws that slow is slim. I just said, 'What else can you give me, God? Enough is enough.'''

Bonds finished the season with a .328 batting average, a career-high 137 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .863, easily surpassing the mark of .847 set by Ruth in 1920.

Bonds, who also broke Ruth's major league record by walking 177 times this season, ended up with an on-base percentage of .515 _ best in the majors since 1957, and tops in the NL since John McGraw's .547 in 1900.

``It seems Babe ain't going to have many records, is he?'' Giants manager Dusty Baker said. ``It's the greatest year I've seen from a single player.''

Bonds homered every 6.52 at-bats this season, easily beating the major league record of a homer each 7.27 at-bats that Mark McGwire set while hitting 70 homers in 1998 _ a record that Bonds broke with homers No. 71 and 72 on Friday night.

``What can I say about Barry Bonds? He had a tremendous season, the way that he handled everything,'' Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. ``If he had been pitched to on a constant basis, he might have hit 100 home runs.''

Instead of feeling the pressure in the final few games of the season, Bonds finished the year in style _ he hit four homers in his final three games.

Bonds' 73rd homer, onto the arcade above the right-field fence, was the 567th of his career _ leaving him six behind Harmon Killebrew for sixth all-time. Bonds started the season 17th on the career list.

The ball was grabbed by Patrick Hayashi, 36, from nearby Santa Clara County, after a scrum among fans on the arcade.

Before his second at-bat, fans chanted ``Five more years!'' _ a reference to comments by Bonds' agent that he will seek a five-year deal after this season. Bonds is eligible for free agency after nine seasons with the Giants, who may not be able to afford his demands.

The 37-year-old Bonds earned $10.3 million this season in the last year of a three-year, $22.9 million contract extension. His agent, Scott Boras, is expected to seek a contract worth perhaps $20 million a year.

Bonds said he would like to return to the Giants, the team of his godfather _ Willie Mays _ and one of the teams his father, Bobby Bonds, played for. But he said he has no idea where he will end up in 2002.

``This is my home. It's been my home since 1968 when my dad came here. It's always been my home,'' he said.

``My relationship has been up and down, but for the most part has been good. This year, it's been exceptionally good,'' he added. ``You walk into a store, and you run into little old ladies who've never seen a baseball game before in their whole life, telling you what a great accomplishment you have.''

Yorvit Torrealba, a September callup from the minors, broke a 1-all tie in the seventh with an RBI single. It was the catcher's first major league start.

Gary Sheffield drove in his 100th run of the season with a fourth-inning triple for the Dodgers. It was his third consecutive season with 100 or more RBIs, and fifth overall.

Mark Gardner (5-5) pitched one inning for the win. Robb Nen got two outs in the ninth for his 45th save in 52 opportunities.

Springer (1-1) allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings, and said he was not at all upset about giving up Bonds' 73rd homer.

``It was kind of a thrill to give it up. You don't really want to be the one noted for it, but in the pitching meeting that we had today we decided we had to pitch to him,'' Springer said. ``He hit a knuckler, it wasn't a good knuckler.''
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