Selig says he'll try to be in attendance when Bonds sets mark
SAN FRANCISCO -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig was at home watching Barry Bonds and the Giants play when he decided he needed to be at the ballpark to see San Francisco slugger break Hank Aaron's career home run record.
Selig arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday and said he'll try and be present when Bonds passes Aaron. In a statement earlier in the day, Selig said he decided to attend "out of respect for the tradition of this game, the magnitude of the record, and the fact that all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty."
Bonds: Most HRs vs. opponent
If Barry Bonds homers against the Braves this week, Atlanta will become the eighth franchise that has allowed at least 40 homers to the slugger.
"It's a huge moment in baseball history," Selig said as the Giants played the Atlanta Braves. "It just struck me this was the appropriate time. Really, it's no more involved than that.
"I'm confident in my decision," he added. "I think it was the right thing for me to be here, and I'm here."
Bonds went 1-for-5 with a walk on Tuesday, his one hit a single up the middle in the fourth. He walked in his final at-bat in the bottom of the 13th and scored as the Giants staged a final rally. They ended up losing to the Braves 7-5.
Selig does plan to leave Friday for Cooperstown, N.Y., where he'll attend Sunday's Hall of Fame induction ceremonies of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. But he said he'll likely rejoin the Giants afterward if Bonds still is chasing the record.
"Chances are yes, I probably would," Selig said.
Selig didn't commit to being part of any on-field celebrations, saying that was up to the Giants organization. He also said he has not talked to Bonds, and does not plan to.
"I try not to talk to players period during the course of the season," Selig said. "Unless they've acted badly."
Bonds, who turned 43 on Tuesday, has been dogged for years by suspicions that he used performance-enhancing drugs. But he's never tested positive, and has said he's never knowingly taken steroids or any other drugs.
He began Tuesday with 753 homers, two shy of the record.
"Everyone has to make their own judgment," Selig said. "I'm just here to watch it."
Bonds didn't speak before the game, but his teammates were happy that Selig will be on hand to see Aaron's record fall.
As recently as last weekend, when Selig watched Bonds and the Giants play in Milwaukee, the commissioner said he remained undecided on whether to be in attendance when the record falls. Selig skipped the Giants' homestand opener on Monday, watching the game from his home in Milwaukee instead.
But he arrived just before game time Tuesday, and watched from a box on the broadcast level of the press box with Giants executive vice president Larry Baer. Team owner Peter Magowan joined them later.
"It's a prestigious record, it's hard not to be there," Steve Kline said. "It would contradict his words on someone being innocent until proven guilty. They've been after him for a while. If he's found guilty, they can do something different then. Right now, he's about to be the new home run king."
The former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, Selig has been friends for years with Aaron, who began his career in 1954 with the Milwaukee Braves and ended it in 1976 with the Brewers.
In 1974, commissioner Bowie Kuhn was criticized when he was not at the ballpark in Atlanta when Aaron hit his 715th home run to surpass Babe Ruth. Kuhn was at the game in Cincinnati when Aaron tied Ruth.
"Bottom line, Barry's good for the game," Barry Zito said. "People on the upper levels might not want to embrace that. But the way he draws people to the game is second to none."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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