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A historic night, at least for now

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2007

When former Baltimore Orioles catcher Johnny Oates took his family to visit the Hall of Fame, his son, Andy, a young boy at the time, was stunned when they stopped at the exhibit for Hank Aaron.

There was the lineup card from the game of Aaron's 715th home run, the one that broke Babe Ruth's career record. Oates was a backup catcher on the Atlanta Braves, and his name was on the historic lineup card.

Oates said he was proud when his son beamed and said, "Look, Dad, you're in the Hall of Fame."

I wonder whether San Francisco Giants second baseman Ray Durham might look at one of his children someday and be just as proud to see his name on the lineup card from last night, when his teammate Barry Bonds broke Aaron's career home run mark of 755 against the Washington Nationals at AT&T Park.

Then again, I wonder whether the lineup card will make it to Cooperstown. At least Bonds, who said earlier this year he wasn't about to give the Hall of Fame much in the way of memorabilia related to his infamous accomplishment, doesn't control the lineup cards.

But what will be more valuable and important? The lineup card from Bonds' record-breaking game or the jury list for his anticipated trial on perjury and income tax evasion after an indictment that is expected before the end of the year?

The moment of 756 came shortly before midnight Eastern time, when Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik, who already had allowed a double and a single to Bonds earlier in the game, appeared to be in control. With a 3-2 count in the fifth inning and the score tied at 4-4, Bonds drove a pitch deep into the San Francisco night, and the ballpark erupted. Bacsik's shoulders dropped as soon as the ball left the bat, and so did a country — in relief, indifference and sadness.

The Barry Bonds party will close up shop now. The national media horde that has followed him won't get out of San Francisco fast enough, though it will reconvene again for the second part of this celebration, which will take place in a San Francisco courthouse.

I wonder whether commissioner Bud Selig will be there for that event, standing on the courthouse steps, hands in his pocket like he was Saturday night when Bonds tied Aaron with No. 755. The only thing better would have been had Cadillac Bud — who can hide his hands but can't hide the stain of the steroid era on them — turned his back as Bonds rounded the bases.

Will he give Bonds the same hearty endorsement he did in the days leading up to the record-breaker: "All citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty."

Inspiring. A "Field of Dreams" moment, a line right out of "The Natural."

Aaron finally made his presence felt, though not in person. On a video tribute played when the game was stopped for the brief celebration, he said, "I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds. It is a great accomplishment. I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement."

Aaron said a lot more to Bonds during last year's World Series, though he never mentioned his name. Aaron was talking to the recipients of the Hank Aaron Award on the dais — Ryan Howard and Derek Jeter — but he was clearly talking about Bonds.

"I think most of us have to realize that we owe much more than just hitting home runs on the field," Aaron said. "We owe a lot to our kids. We owe a lot to our fellow man, and you do have a tremendous duty to continue your job as far as baseball on and off the field."

Aaron went on to say to both men that "I think this award means much more than just presenting an award to two great players. I think that you, more than anybody, have realized that what you do on the field means little or nothing to what you do off the field."

Despite last night's celebration, the Giants' organization is focused on another day: Sept. 30, the last day of the season, the day the Giants will get their franchise back.

It likely will be the last day — despite the insistence he wants to play next year — Barry Bonds will wear a major league baseball uniform.

On that day, I think Cadillac Bud will take his hands out of his pockets and applaud. He won't be alone.