Sunday Q&A: Mike Bacsik, record home run surrenderer

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 29, 2011 - 12:51 AM

The lefthander gave up home run No. 756 to Barry Bonds four years ago. After walking away from the game, he's back in pro ball now.

Former Nationals lefthander Mike Bacsik.

Photo: Keith Srakocic, Associated Press

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Before August 7, 2007, Mike Bacsik was just another journeyman lefthanded pitcher. Then he threw a 3-2 fastball to Barry Bonds, who deposited it into the right-center field seats at AT&T Park in San Francisco for career home run No. 756. Bacsik, 33, hasn't played in the majors since that season, but this year he caught on with the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association. His pitching coach is his father, Mike Sr., a former big leaguer. While in town last week to play the St. Paul Saints, Bacsik chatted with the Star Tribune's Brian Stensaas.

Q After being out of the game so long, why come on with the Cats now?

A Honestly, it was watching that run by the Texas Rangers last year. That really got my blood bubbling to give it one more try. I decided to see how it felt, and in late November I decided I'd keep at it and catch on with an independent team.

Q Is this your last shot?

A I guess we'll see. I don't want to get my hopes too high. I'm feeling good, even though I'm missing some starts [with a shoulder injury]. It's hard to explain, but even though I don't know 90 percent of the guys in this league, there's no other feeling in the world that gives you what pitching does. I missed is so much. I'm training and working to be the best I can again.

Q OK, you knew this interview was going to turn to Barry Bonds at some point.

A I haven't been asked that in a while, actually. It's funny to think that I'll always be that Trivial Pursuit side note that nobody knows. But I'll always be associated with it. There's a lot of scrutiny with the record, and rightfully so. It's not looked upon as this awesome record -- like Hank Aaron or Lou Gehrig's -- even though it is an awesome record. But there's everything behind it that makes people want to ignore it or not recognize it. That's their right, and I have no problem with it.

Q Is Bonds' record tarnished?

A Tarnished, yes. But [it] still should be in the record books, yes. Because here's the deal: There are going to be people who get inducted into the Hall of Fame -- or might already be in the Hall of Fame, I don't know for sure -- that did steroids. They just didn't get caught through a raid or a mail order or through a positive test. And there's going to be guys that don't get into the Hall of Fame -- Bonds, [Roger] Clemens, [Rafael] Palmeiro -- that people will say, "Look, we have evidence they did steroids." Well, throughout that time probably 25 to 30 percent of players were on steroids. That's my guesstimation.

Q Is Barry Bonds a Hall of Famer in your mind?

A Without a doubt. And I think Rafael Palmeiro is a Hall of Famer and Roger Clemens is a Hall of Famer. Without a doubt.

Q What goes through your mind when you see highlights of Bonds' record-breaking home run?

A It doesn't seem like it's me. But it is what it is. I got fan mail a few weeks after it. People were saying things like I'll regret throwing him a strike. And I'm like, "Look. It was one home run. I didn't give up 756 of them that day." I wonder if these guys wrote hate mail to the other 500-or-whatever pitchers who gave up home runs to him. I tried to get him out, I was not successful, and a lot of guys can say that.

Q And you doffed your cap to him that night?

A I did. And I also went over to the [Giants] clubhouse before all the media hubbub to congratulate him. I'm not disgraced or embarrassed about it. Hell, I gave up a lot of home runs to lesser players. No matter what you think of the person -- like him, hate him -- the guy had one of the best careers in Major League Baseball and I think you do have to tip your hat to him.

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