Bonds moves into eternity, assumes MLB home run record

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds raised both arms over his head
like a prize fighter in victory, fists clenched -- and then he took

It was over at long last.

Like him or not, legitimate or not, he is baseball's new home
run king.

Bonds hit No. 756 to the deepest part of the ballpark Tuesday
night, and hammered home that very point. He broke Hank Aaron's
storied record with one out in the fifth inning, hitting a
full-count, 84 mph pitch from Washington's Mike Bacsik.

"I knew I hit it," Bonds said. "I knew I got it. I was like,
phew, finally."

Later, he firmly and flatly rejected
any suggestion that this milestone was stained by steroids.

"This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period," Bonds

Bonds sent the ball arcing high into the night, 435 feet into
the right-center field seats.

"Thank you very much. I got to thank all of you, all the fans
here in San Francisco. It's been fantastic," he said shortly after
crossing home plate, his godfather, Willie Mays, at his side.

"I've got to thank my teammates for their support," Bonds said. "Through all of this, you guys have been strong, and you've given me all of the support in the world and I'll never forget it, as long as I live."

After thanking his children, he said: "I'm glad I did it before
you guys went to school."

To the Nationals, he said: "Thank you for understanding this
game. It means a lot to me."

Conspicuous by their absence were the commissioner and Hammerin'
Hank himself.

Though he was on hand for the tying homer three days ago,
deciding to put baseball history ahead of the steroid allegations
that have plagued the Giants slugger, Bud Selig wasn't there for
the record-breaker.

Instead, he sent two emissaries, Major League Baseball executive
vice president Jimmie Lee Solomon and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.

"I congratulate Barry Bonds for establishing a new, career home run record. Barry's achievement is noteworthy and remarkable," Selig said in a statement. "While the issues which have swirled around this record will continue to work themselves toward resolution, today is a day for congratulations on a truly remarkable achievement."

Bonds also heard personally from the commissioner.

"Bud Selig called me after the game and congratulated me. I was
very happy about that," Bonds said.

As for Aaron, he said all along he had no interest in being
there whenever and wherever his 33-year-old mark was broken. He was
true to his word, but he did offer a taped message of
congratulations that played on the stadium's video board during a
10-minute tribute.

"It is a great accomplishment which required skill, longevity
and determination," he said.

"Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special
place in baseball and I have been privileged to hold this record
for 33 of those years. I move over now and offer my best wishes to
Barry and his family on this historic achievement.

"My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is
that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase
their own dreams," he said.

A woman who answered the phone at Aaron's home in Georgia
shortly after Bonds' homer said that Aaron was asleep.

"When I saw Hank Aaron that made everything," Bonds said.
"We've always loved him. He's always the home run king."

With a long, satisfied stare, Bonds watched as the ball sailed
over the fence and disappeared into the scrum in the first few
rows. Then he raised both arms over his head like a victorious
prize fighter, fists clenched, and took off.

His 17-year-old batboy son Nikolai was already bouncing on home
plate as Dad rounded third and ran the final 90 feet to make it
official. After a long embrace, the rest of the family joined in --
his mother, two daughters and wife. And then there was Mays, who
removed his cap and congratulated his godson.

Bonds saved his most poignant words for last, addressing his
late father, Bobby.

"My dad," he said, looking to the sky and choking back tears.
"Thank you."

Bonds had wanted to break the record at home, where he would be
assured of a friendly crowd. They were all right, unlike in San
Diego where some fans held up signs with asterisks indicating that
his power was steroid-induced.

Bonds has always denied knowingly using performance-enhancing

Bonds had already doubled and singled before hitting the solo
home run. Bacsik put his left hand to the back of his head as soon
as Bonds connected.

"I dreamed about it as a kid, but when I dreamed about it, I
was the one hitting the home run and not giving it up," Bacsik

"I didn't really want to be part of history as a bad part, but
I am," he said on ESPN. "I'm OK with it."

Bacsik later spoke with Bonds and got an autographed bat from
the Giants star.

Bonds took his position in left field to start the sixth, then
was replaced and drew another standing ovation.

A fan wearing a Mets jersey wound up with the historic ball.
Matt Murphy of New York emerged from the stands with the souvenir
and a bloodied face, and was whisked to a secure room.

Even with Bonds at the top of the chart, fans will surely keep
debating which slugger they consider the true home run champion.
Some will continue to cling to Aaron while other, older rooters
will always say it's Babe Ruth.

"It's all about history. Pretty soon, someone will come along
and pass him," Mays said before the game.

Aaron held the top spot for 12,173 days after connecting for No.
715 to pass the Babe on April 8, 1974.

"This is the greatest record in all of sports," Giants manager
Bruce Bochy said. "We are all fortunate to witness it. It's
awesome. This road to history has been a lot of fun."

Bonds homered exactly three years after Greg Maddux earned his
300th victory at the same ballpark. It's been quite a week of
baseball milestones -- over the weekend, Alex Rodriguez hit his
500th home run and Tom Glavine won No. 300.

A seven-time NL MVP, the 43-year-old Bonds hit his 22nd home run
of the year. Bonds broke Mark McGwire's single-season record by
hitting 73 in 2001 and while he's no longer such a force, opposing
pitchers remain wary.

Bonds and Giants management bickered in the offseason over
contract issues. This big night was the main reason owner Peter
Magowan brought back the star left fielder for a 15th season in San
Francisco, signing him to a $15.8 million, one-year contract.

Bonds' once-rapid quest for the record had slowed in recent
years as his age and balky knees diminished his pace. He hit 258
home runs from 2000-04, but has only 53 since then.

While steroids have tinged Bonds' pursuit, it was race that was
the predominant issue when Aaron broke Ruth's mark in 1974. 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.

Former commissioner Bowie Kuhn watched Aaron tie the record but
was not present for the record-breaker, a slight that bothered many
fans of Aaron. Selig is a close friend of Aaron's and offered Bonds
tepid congratulations when he tied the record.

"I think Hank is his own man," Mays said. "I think if he
wanted to be here he would be here."

"When he hit 715, the commissioner wasn't there," he said.
"You may not blame him because he wasn't represented the right

Bonds was destined for stardom at an early age. The son of
All-Star outfielder Bobby Bonds and the godson of one of the game's
greatest players, Bonds spent his childhood years roaming the
clubhouse at Candlestick Park, getting tips from Mays and other

"I visualized him playing sports at a high level. He was 5 when
he was in my locker all the time," Mays said.

In a matter of years, Bonds went from a wiry leadoff hitter with
Pittsburgh in 1986 to a bulked-up slugger. That transformation is
at the heart of his many doubters, who believe Bonds cheated to
accomplish his feats and should not be considered the

There are plenty of fans already hoping for the day that Bonds'
total -- whatever it ends up -- is topped. Rodriguez may have
the best chance, with his 500 home runs at age 32 far ahead of
Bonds' pace.