HOUSTON — After a call for an intentional walk to Barry Bonds opened the All-Star Home Run Derby with a laugh, Miguel Tejada flashed even more power than the slugger who usually gets the most attention.
Tejada hit a record 15 home runs in the second round, topping out at 497 feet and putting several over the 58-foot wall behind the left field seats, toward Crawford Street. He went on to defeat hometown favorite Lance Berkman 5-4 in the final with five of 10 outs to spare.
Berkman sent five dramatic shots out of the ballpark in the second round, including a 493-foot drive. The Astros outfielder earned the admiration of former President Bush, who sat in the crowd of 41,754.
"When I see Lance Berkman get up there and do what he did, that brings joy to my heart," Bush said.
Bonds did get pitched to, hitting eight homers with the roof closed in the first round, one a 483-foot shot over the top row of seats in the right-field upper deck. But he had just three in the second, when the panels pulled back to reveal the night sky and the humidity rolled in.
Before Monday night's competition, the 14 living players among the 20 with 500 or more homers came together in a room beneath the right field upper deck to swap stories, pose for photos and project what the future will bring to the long ball. If the ball has been juiced in recent years, this was the appropriate setting for such a gathering — Minute Maid Park.
Adding it all up, the gathering totaled 8,083 homers. Ten of the top 11 sluggers in baseball history, all but the deceased Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth.
Aaron, the only man to top Ruth's 714, predicted that Bonds (currently at 681) will surpass his mark.
"It won't bother me a bit," Hammerin' Hank said.
Even among the glittery stars, Bonds shined the brightest — the light from the cameras reflected off the diamond crucifix earring on his left earlobe.
He posed for pictures with his godfather, Willie Mays, now fourth on the career list at 660 after being passed by his godson earlier this year.
Bonds was looking forward to the Home Run Derby. He's been intentionally walked 71 times this season — three more than the previous record he set two years ago — and walked 131 times in all.
"I don't have a chance to swing much," he said.
Even if he does pass Aaron, Bonds guessed that he wouldn't remain No. 1 very long and that this generation's stars won't dominate the top of the list forever.
"Someone's going to pass us," said Bonds, later greeted by the fans with a standing ovation.
Mark McGwire, making a rare ballpark appearance, predicted 28-year-old Alex Rodriguez (367) or 24-year-old Albert Pujols (136) could be the ones.
"In 10 years, it's going to be scary," he said.
McGwire, whose season record of 70 homers in 1998 was topped by Bonds' 73 in 2001, didn't want to discuss baseball's decision this spring to ban the use of androstenedione, the steroidlike supplement McGwire used in 1998.
"Great. Perfect. Then I would have never used it," said McGwire, who stopped taking andro the following year, saying he didn't want children to follow his lead.
Bonds wouldn't talk about steroids. He was among the athletes who testified last fall before a federal grand jury last fall investigating illegal steroid distribution. His personal trainer was indicted. Bonds has denied using illegal steroids.
"What court are you talking about?" he said when asked whether the court proceedings were a distraction. "I'm not in court. I'm not in there, so I don't have to worry about it."
Reggie Jackson thought it was unfair that the media has cast suspicion on today's home run hitters for using illegal steroids.
"You haven't fingered anybody," he said. "So until then, stop accusing until you have evidence that this guy did this, and if you don't, lay off of him. If it was me, I would sue for defamation of character."