- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO — The ball went sailing into the night, made a beeline for the bleachers in right-center field and landed amid a sea of humanity.

Standing at the plate some 435 feet away, Barry Bonds dropped his bat, raised both arms skyward and admired his handiwork in much the same fashion he had done so many times before.

This, of course, was unlike any other home run in Bonds‘ career. This one immortalized his place in baseball history. Beloved hero or despised villain, steroid-user or innocent victim, on this point no one can disagree:

Barry Bonds is the all-time home run champion.

With a colossal blast off Mike Bacsik in the fifth inning of last night’s game against the Washington Nationals, Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron with the 756th homer of a career that has been as controversial as it has been illustrious.

This record is not tainted at all, the San Francisco Giants slugger said. At all. Period.

A crowd of 43,154 at AT&T; Park roared with delight as the San Francisco Giants left fielder rounded the bases, the Nationals standing in awe after playing their part in this history-making event.

Bonds was greeted at the plate by his son, Nikolai, a Giants batboy. He again pointed both arms to the sky, received hugs from his teammates and Hall of Famer Willie Mays and then turned emotional as he addressed the crowd.

“I’ve got to thank all of you,” the 43-year-old slugger said. “All the fans here in San Francisco. I have to thank my teammates for their support through all this. You guys have been strong and given me all the support in the world.”

Bonds, who also thanked the Nationals “for understanding this day, it means a lot to me,” had tears in his eyes as he mentioned his late father, Bobby.

This is my family, Bonds said of the Giants fans who have overwhelmingly embraced him throughout a home run chase that was met with varying levels of disgust and apathy throughout the rest of the country. No one will ever take that away. No one can ever take that away.

The biggest surprise came moments earlier, when a taped message from Aaron aired on the stadium video board. The former home run champ, a staunch Bonds critic who refused to be in attendance at the ballpark, stunned everyone by offering praise for his successor.

“Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball, and I’ve been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years,” Aaron said. “I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical 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.”

Bonds, who had no advance knowledge the message would be played, was genuinely moved by Aarons words. It meant everything, it meant absolutely everything, he said. Weve all admired Hank Aaron, weve all respected him, everyone in the game. … It was absolutely the best.

Notable in his absence, however, was commissioner Bud Selig, who had attended most of Bonds games over the last three weeks but left the chase Monday to tend to business in New York.

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