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Bonds' historic homer met with mixed emotions

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Tyler Snyder caught Barry Bonds' 714th
homer on the fly Saturday, snagging it cleanly with his glove. The
people around the 19-year-old Athletics fan cheered wildly, with
nobody assaulting or gouging the holder of the latest Bonds
souvenir.

Bonds got a standing ovation from the Bay Area's forgiving
faithful -- and then Snyder got to speak the minds of millions of
baseball lovers who see Bonds as the game's greatest antihero.

"I hate that guy," Snyder told reporters before he was whisked
away. "I don't really care for the guy."

But Snyder's perfect catch was a rare moment of grace in this
ragged, tainted quest for baseball immortality by Bonds, who ended
a nine-game homer drought with a second-inning solo shot for the
San Francisco Giants. Fans stood and applauded, and Bonds' peers
acknowledged another milestone.

"He finally hit it? It's about time," said Ken Griffey Jr.,
who entered the night with 539 career homers, in the Cincinnati
Reds' clubhouse in Detroit. "Now I don't have to keep watching TV
to see him do it."

Fans, players and managers across the majors reacted with the
same mix of admiration and trepidation that's characterized Bonds'
every achievement since his 73-homer season in 2001 and late-career
power binge fell under strong suspicion of steroid use.

But nearly every fan in the Coliseum joined in a standing
ovation when the homer settled into the stands -- even a guy right
behind home plate wearing a No. 25 Giants jersey with the word
"BALCO" stitched where "BONDS" should be.

Across the nation, the Mets posted a message on the Shea Stadium
scoreboard moments after Bonds' homer -- and the Subway Series fans
booed. When a similar message went on the scoreboard at Dodger
Stadium, the boos from the crowd of 55,587 were more
understandable, given the Giants' archrival status.

"I still remember Barry Bonds as a great player, regardless of
steroids or what," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "How many home
runs would he have hit without whatever people are saying is going
on? I don't know. I know one thing: That player-wise, he's pretty
good."

Giants fans packed their waterfront ballpark last week, hoping
Bonds would reach another milestone at home. The scene atop the
right-field arcade resembled a mosh pit most days, but no homers
reached the fans.

His drought stretched through three games in Houston and the
series opener in Oakland, where he made the last out in the A's win
on Friday night. But Bonds wasted no time on a gorgeous East Bay
afternoon, hitting a line-drive homer off Brad Halsey for No. 714.

"It's a shame that ... such a historic moment has a cloud over
it," Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. "He's a special player for
a long time. My rookie year was '89, he was a great player then. He
accomplished a lot of wonderful things before people started
speculating. I thought he was a greatest player I saw personally in
the '90s."

As news of the homer trickled throughout the league, both points
of view on Bonds' unique career were heard.

Even Bonds' enemies had a grudging respect: Astros reliever Russ
Springer was suspended for four games Friday for hitting Bonds
earlier in the week in the latest chapter of their feud.

"Neutral," Springer said of his attitude toward the
accomplishment. "I'm not anti-Barry Bonds. I'm not pro-Barry
Bonds. He's a good player. I enjoy watching him play. He's one of
the better hitters. I'm just glad he didn't hit it here, and he can
hit all he wants somewhere else."

Retired veterans expressed restrained admiration for Bonds, who
passed Frank Robinson and Willie Mays while climbing the charts in
recent years.

"I think if you're going to be a realist, the home run is
certainly not what it used to be," said Hall of Fame pitcher Jim
Palmer, now an Orioles broadcaster. "If you ever saw Frank play or
if you ever saw (Hank) Aaron play or if you ever saw Mays play, you
realize that 580 home runs is a lot of home runs, and that 660 home
runs is a lot of home runs. ... Because of what went on from '88 to
2003, it's a different era."

When asked if Bonds' accomplishments are tainted, Palmer said:
"Of course. What (Mark) McGwire did was tainted."

As for Snyder, the teenage holder of the next horsehide lottery
ticket, he was whisked from Section 146 to his home in suburban
Pleasanton in an Oakland police cruiser.

Mets closer Billy Wagner, who served up one of Bonds' homers
this season, is friendly with the slugger and was glad to hear
about No. 714.

"I'm happy for him," Wagner said. "They should celebrate in
baseball. There's no guilty verdict yet."