Bonds connects for 754

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SAN FRANCISCO — Hammerin’ Hank, he’s within one now.

Barry Bonds hit his 754th career home run last night, and needed just one more to tie Hank Aaron’s record.

Bonds sent a 2-1 pitch from rookie Rick Vanden Hurk over the wall in left-center in the first inning for a solo shot against the Florida Marlins, his 20th homer of the season.

Bud Selig wasn’t there to see it, sending MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy in his place. The commissioner back in Milwaukee, preparing to go to tomorrow’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Bonds drew ball one and ball two — with boos raining down on Vanden Hurk — before a called first strike. Then, the 96-mph fastball was gone — a drive estimated at 420 feet.

As usual, Bonds stood and watched his ball sail away, then began yet another trot.

Fans, already on their feet for Bonds‘ first at-bat, screamed in delight when it was clear he had homered — Bonds‘ first at home since he connected for No. 750 on June 29 against Arizona’s Livan Hernandez. They chanted “Barry! Barry!” as he rounded the bases.

The fan who retrieved No. 754 was Eric Stormer, a general contractor and season ticketholder from nearby Martinez.

In his next three chances to tie Aaron, Bonds walked in the third, fifth and sixth innings. The game ended too late for this edition.

This is where Bonds has hit so many of his milestone homers — Nos. 500, 600 and 700 along with 660 and 661 to tie and pass his godfather, Hall of Famer Willie Mays. This is also where he hit 715 last May 28 to pass Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. No. 714 was hit across San Francisco Bay in Oakland.

In 2001, Bonds hit the final three of his 73 homers at home, breaking Mark McGwire’s season record of 70.

Bonds had gone homerless in five games and 18 at-bats since hitting two against the Chicago Cubs on July 19 at Wrigley Field. He had been 3-for-18 since his previous homer, but said he didn’t think he was overswinging.

The slugger went out to his spot in left field in the top of the second with fans pounding the outfield fence in celebration. Bonds turned to acknowledge them with a wave of his cap.

A “Road to History” tribute played on the main center-field scoreboard with a greeting from Michael Jordan.

“Hey Barry, it’s Michael Jordan,” the message said. “I just want to congratulate you on your historic event. I’m very happy for you. Ever since the first day I saw you in the batting cage, you’ve been working toward this for a long period of time. So I want to wish you and Elizabeth and that beautiful girl of yours congratulations. I’m very happy for you.”

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