SAN DIEGO -- With a short swing, a half stare and an
emphatic clap of his hands, Barry Bonds rounded the bases. After so
many days and so many tries, he had finally caught Hammerin' Hank.
"The hard part is over right now," Bonds said.
High above the field in a private box, baseball commissioner Bud
Selig was a reluctant witness to history. Choosing to overlook the
steroid allegations that have dogged the San Francisco slugger,
Selig watched Bonds tie Hank Aaron's home run record -- his mouth
agape, hands stuffed in pockets and nary a cheer on his lips.
No. 755 was a strong shot for all the doubters, an
opposite-field drive of 382 feet to left-center, moving Bonds
within one swing of having baseball's pinnacle of power all to
himself. It came on a 2-1, 91 mph fastball Saturday night.
"This is the hardest thing I've had to do in my entire
career," he said. "I had rashes on my head, I felt like I was
getting sick at times."
And it was a long time coming.
It had been eight days and 28 plate appearances since Bonds hit
his 754th home run, and he came out for early batting practice
Saturday, hoping to break his slump. He did it quickly, leading off
the second inning.
"No matter what anybody thinks of the controversy surrounding
this event, Mr. Bonds' achievement is noteworthy and remarkable,"
Selig said in a statement.
Selig said either he or a representative would attend the
Giants' next few games "out of respect for the tradition of the
game, the magnitude of the record and the fact that all citizens in
this country are innocent until proven guilty."
Bonds said he hadn't spoken to Selig, but welcomed him anytime.
Aaron was not in attendance. The Hall of Famer had previously
said he would not follow the chase in person.
"It's a little bit different than any other milestone I've ever
gone through. It's Hank Aaron. I can't explain the feeling of it,
it's just Hank Aaron," Bonds said.
Bonds drew a mixed reaction from the crowd at Petco Park after
he homered off Clay Hensley. Several fans held up asterisk signs
and the San Francisco slugger was booed as he headed to left field
at the end of the inning.
"I want to thank the fans. They have been outstanding," Bonds
said. "It's been a fun ride. I really appreciate the way San Diego
handled it and the way their fans handled it."
Bonds walked his next three times up and left the game in the
eighth for a pinch-runner. He raised his helmet with his left hand,
then his right, and drew a standing ovation from many fans who
chanted his name.
The Padres won 3-2 in 12 innings.
Bonds said he would not start Sunday, which would give him a
chance to break the record at home beginning Monday night.
Bonds hit the tying homer off a former Giants draft pick who was
suspended in 2005 for violating baseball's minor league steroids
"I don't think we're here to discuss those matters," Bonds
Earlier in the day, Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th home run and
spoke with Selig, who reportedly has not spoken with Bonds in
Bonds had been closely monitoring A-Rod's quest in the past week
-- like Bonds, Rodriguez took advantage of his first opportunity of
the game, connecting at Yankee Stadium.
Both Bonds and Rodriguez gave their batting helmets to the Hall
of Fame. Bonds said his helmet from 756 would also go to
Cooperstown, and that his uniform from the record-breaker would
probably wind up there someday.
Bonds' milestone shot clunked off an advertising sign on the
facade and fell into the navy blue bleachers below -- right under
the main scoreboard featuring a giant photo of the smiling slugger.
A fan sitting in that area threw back a ball onto the field, but
that was not the historic one. Instead, the souvenir wound up in
the hands of 33-year-old plumber Adam Hughes of La Jolla, and he
was whisked to a secure area so the specially marked ball could be
Hughes said he hadn't decided what to do with the prize.
"I don't know what direction I am going," Hughes said.
Bonds walked a half-dozen steps after connecting, clapped his
hands and rounded the bases with no hint of a smile.
After Bonds crossed the plate, he lifted his batboy son,
Nikolai, and carried him several steps in an embrace.
The 43-year-old star got a hug from teammate Ryan Klesko, and
Bonds slowly walked through a greeting line of other Giants.
Moments later, he walked over to the field-level seats and kissed
8-year-old daughter Aisha and wife, Liz, through the screen.
Bonds then lifted his cap before going to the far end of the
dugout and hugging Sue Burns, the wife of late Giants ownership
partner Harmon Burns.
The home run came at 7:29 p.m. PDT as much of the country was
getting ready to head to bed. By the time Bonds did postgame
interviews, most fans surely were asleep.
Only two other major league games were being played when Bonds
connected. The news was met with scattered boos at Dodger Stadium
"It's nice to see Barry get it over with. Now, let's see how
many more he hits," Boston star David Ortiz said.
Mariners hitting instructor Jeff Pentland coached Bonds at
"I think he is probably the best hitter since Babe Ruth, but
that's my opinion. I think the things he's done, the records he's
broken. He's stood out amongst the players of today and been way
above them, head and shoulders above them for his career," he
The godson of Willie Mays and the son of an All-Star outfielder,
Bonds seemed destined for greatness from the start. Funny thing,
his speed drew a lot more attention than his strength when he broke
into the majors as a lanky leadoff hitter.
Even when Bonds became a threat to Aaron's record, many fans
thought age would slow him down. Instead, his power numbers surged
-- as did speculation about steroid use.
Bonds steadfastly denied that he knowingly used
performance-enhancing drugs and let the allegations bounce off him,
the same way fastballs deflected off his bulky body armor.
Choking up an inch or so on his favorite maple bats, No. 25
became the No. 1 target for boobirds outside the Bay Area. He has
remained beloved back home through all of the off-field issues,
refusals to sign autographs and his own surly behavior.
Bonds was constantly shadowed by doubts rather than showered in
affection the way Mark McGwire was nearly a decade ago.
The whole baseball world -- the whole country, really -- joined
the celebration when McGwire broke Roger Maris' season home run
record in 1998. After Big Mac launched No. 62, he pointed to
heaven, hoisted his son and hugged Sammy Sosa.
Yet that story did not have a happy ending. Disgraced by a poor
performance in front of a congressional panel looking into
steroids, McGwire basically became a recluse and didn't come close
in his first bid to make the Hall of Fame.
Bonds broke McGwire's mark of 70, hitting 73 homers in 2001.
Ever since, he's been on a path toward Aaron, a journey that hasn't
been full of joy. Bonds has been hobbled by bad knees and bickered
with Giants management, and his chase was hardly backed by Selig.
The commissioner is a close friend of Aaron's, who began and
ended his career in Selig's native Milwaukee.
A lot of fans, in fact, are already rooting for the day when
Bonds' record falls. While Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas
are next up among active players, Rodriguez is considered the most
likely successor. The Yankees star just turned 32 and is well ahead
of Bonds' pace at the same age.
That said, Bonds' quest was the main reason Giants owner Peter
Magowan brought Bonds back for a 15th season in San Francisco,
signing the slugger to a $15.8 million, one-year contract right
before spring training.
Even with Bonds at 755, there is bound to be a split among many
fans over who is the real home run champ.
There will be some who always consider Babe Ruth as the best --
those old films of him wearing a crown will last forever. Others
will give that honor to Aaron, as much for his slugging as his
quiet dignity in breaking Ruth's record in 1974.
While steroids tinged Bonds' chase, race was the predominant
issue when Aaron took aim at Ruth's mark of 714.
Aaron dealt with hate mail and death threats from racist fans
who thought a black man was not worthy of breaking the record set
by a white hero, the beloved Babe. Bonds, too, has said he deals
with racial issues and that threats have been made on his life at