By Ronald Blum
SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds made the biggest splash, and he didn't even hit in the Home Run Derby.
The Angels' Vladimir Guerrero beat Toronto's Alex Rios 3-2 in Monday night's derby final and hit the longest drive, a 503-foot shot in front of the oversized baseball glove behind the left-field seats.
Bonds decided not to take part, disappointing fans in the ballpark and ratings-hungry baseball executives. He's done it six times before and didn't want to exert himself at age 42.
"I love Barry," the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez said. "I wish he was there because I'm watching it and I want to see great players hit. It would have been awesome to watch him hit some into McCovey Cove."
Bonds stood near the third-base dugout and watched, talking with A-Rod.
Loved and loathed, admired and assailed, Bonds was the center of attention as baseball's midsummer celebration returned to San Francisco for the first time in 23 years
"My thing is that I feel disappointed in some of those fans that were influenced by a third-party judgment and have not given me that opportunity just to know me," he said. "People in San Francisco know me."
In a silver vest and fashionable tie, Bonds sat behind a corner table in the grand ballroom of the Westin St. Francis hotel by Union Square, surrounded by media a dozen deep as he spoke for an hour before the Home Run Derby. At the other end of the ornate room, Griffey craned his neck around Dodgers reliever Takashi Saito to get a look.
Later at the ballpark, fans cheered and chanted "Barry! Barry!" as he hit mostly liners and grounders during batting practice. He did send a few drives out toward the right- and center-field seats. He hit seven homers in all, and fans in kayaks and rafts awaited his single splash shot, one diving into the chilly water to fish out a ball.
The streets of San Francisco were filled with baseball fans who crowded the cable cars that climbed Nob and Russian Hills and found their way down to Fisherman's Wharf and its indelible view of the rust-colored Golden Gate Bridge.
But no one in the derby had a true "splash hit" over the right-field fence and into the cove.