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A-Rod's 500th homer is fair and square

August 05, 2007|Anthony Rieber | Newsday

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez took his first swing of the day against Kansas City Royals starter Kyle Davies and bat met ball and the ball traveled, to use the famous words of a New York Yankees announcer, high and far. But would it be gone? Only if it stayed fair.

As with everything else surrounding the supremely talented, supremely complex Rodriguez, there was no quick or easy answer. The ball, like everything else in A-Rod's crazy Yankee tenure, hung in the air.

"I thought when I hit it initially, with the path of the ball, it definitely would go foul," he said.

A-Rod stood at home plate at Yankee Stadium and watched, transfixed, his bat in his left hand, lowered at his side. More than 54,000 fans -- including those seated in the lower deck in left field, near the foul pole, probably some of the same fans who booed A-Rod a year ago -- squinted through the afternoon sun, trying to follow the majestic drive.

Thousands more watching at home likely did the same, shifting forward in their seats, as the cameras tried to frame a tiny white speck against a sea of color. Would it be fair? Would it land in the upper deck? Where was the ball?

Was this it, finally? Was this Alex Rodriguez's 500th home run?

It was. The ball came down on the fair side of the foul pole and A-Rod started up toward first, bat still in hand. He dropped it and raised his arms and pumped both fists and took a trip around the bases he had been imagining for at least 10 days, since he hit No. 499 in Kansas City 30 at-bats ago.

A-Rod was hugged at home plate by Derek Jeter and then Bobby Abreu, both of whom scored on the first-inning, three-run home run. He pointed to a spot behind the plate where he believed his wife, Cynthia, was sitting, but Cynthia was late to the game and was walking to her seats when the ball went out.

Rodriguez was greeted by the Yankees team, which had spilled out of the dugout. He took a curtain call, again raising his arms and pumping both fists.

Only 21 other men know how it feels to hit 500 home runs in the major leagues. None of them were as young as Rodriguez, who hit his eight days after his 32nd birthday. Rodriguez is the third to do it as a Yankee, joining Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle.

"It means the world," Rodriguez said after the Yankees' 16-8 win over the Royals. "To do it at home and to wear this beautiful uniform that I appreciate and respect so much, it's special. New York's a special place. I've had my trials and tribulations here in New York, I've learned from them. A day like today kind of brings it full circle and maybe there's a happy ending for me somewhere."

The love-in for Rodriguez continued as he took the field in the top of the second inning and through the day. One fan held up a sign that read "501?" -- what have you done for me lately, huh? -- but mostly he was showered with affection and chants of "Let's Go, A-Rod."

"You wish you can go up there and shake every fan's hand and thank them," he said, "but my only way of thanking them is to hit the home run at home and do it in a winning situation."

Rodriguez donated his batting helmet to the Hall of Fame. He's keeping the bat.

The ball? The one that kept everyone hanging? He hopes to negotiate for it from the unidentified man who caught it.

"I definitely want that ball," Rodriguez said.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

What, already?

Fastest players to hit 500 home runs in the major leagues with name and number of games:

Mark McGwire

1,639

Babe Ruth

1,740

Alex Rodriguez

1,855

Sammy Sosa

1,879

Source: Associated Press

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