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Barry Bonds watches his 1st inning pop-up against pitcher, Dan Haren during the 2007 MLB All-Star game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday July 10, 2007.
SAN FRANCISCO -- For one scintillating split second at 6:43 p.m. Tuesday, Barry Bonds very nearly made the 2007 All-Star Game his personal showcase.

His bat unfurled in that lightning quick way that's become so familiar to Bay Area baseball fans and made contact with a third-inning pitch from Boston's Josh Beckett, sending the baseball screaming into the twilight.

Alas for Bonds, it tumbled back to earth about 5 feet too soon -- "I caught it behind myself," Bonds said -- and Detroit's Magglio Ordonez gloved it on the warning track in left field.

Bonds was left to retreat to the dugout, and it turned out, into retirement for the night.

He sure missed out on some fun.

Ichiro Suzuki's inside-the-park home run -- the first in All-Star Game history -- and an improbable two-out National League rally that ended with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth followed Bonds' departure and left the 78th Midsummer Classic with a stamp separate from Bonds, Willie Mays and all other things San Francisco.

The American League prevailed 5-4 when Philadelphia's Aaron Rowand flew out to right field with the bases loaded against Los Angeles Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez.

That's 10 wins in the past 11 games for the AL, the lone exception a tie in 2002, and the familiar path this game took came only when a ball Suzuki hit took an unusual one.

Suzuki's two-run inside-the-park homer -- his first ever -- came on a fifth-inning drive off San Diego's Chris Young that ricocheted off a seam in the wall in right-center and jetted back toward the right-field foul line and past Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. Suzuki motored around the bases, scoring without a slide.

"I thought it was going to go over the fence," Suzuki said. "When it didn't I was bummed out. ... (The game) was one I'll never forget. The last six years, I never had an All-Star Game where I felt I gave it my all."

That blow, combined with homers by Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford (solo) and Cleveland's Victor Martinez (two-run shot), were just enough for the AL.

Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer off Seattle closer J.J. Putz with two outs in the ninth.

By then, Suzuki had earned his first All-Star Game MVP -- he also singled twice and doubled his hit total from six previous All-Star Games -- and Bonds had bid adieu.

Bonds left after two at-bats in the No. 2 hole -- he hit a routine fly ball to right field in the first inning -- and was answering questions during a news conference when Suzuki sprinted all the way around the bases.

"He told me we would do two at-bats," Bonds said of the decision by NL manager Tony La Russa. "And we (had) three or four outfielders (on the bench), so it's fair. Tony said, 'We're all going to play,' and I think it was the right thing to do."

As for his near-miss in the third inning, which followed Jose Reyes' leadoff double that squirted past New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez?

"I hit it pretty good," Bonds said. "But not good enough."

Suzuki didn't hit the ball well enough to clear the wall, either, but the results were just the same.

It also benefited AL starter Dan Haren, who surrendered the first NL run in the first inning in his initial All-Star appearance.

"I don't think I've had as much jitters or nervousness going into a game, even in the World Series," Haren said after becoming the fifth Oakland A's pitcher to start an All-Star Game and the first since Mark Mulder in 2004. "I just had to sit back and think of how far I've come, just thinking that this will be something I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Reyes touched Haren for a seeing-eye single through the right-side hole to start the bottom of the first, then stole second, the start of a big night for the New York Mets shortstop. He also had three hits, and his first one set the stage for Bonds, who received thunderous ovations in pregame introductions and before his first at-bat.

"I knew I wasn't going to walk him. That's for sure," Haren said of Bonds. "I was going to give him a pitch to hit. If I walked him, I'd probably get booed off the mound."

Instead, Haren left after two innings, down 1-0.

A parade of seven AL pitchers followed Haren, including Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia, a Vallejo native. Sabathia allowed only a single in his inning of work.

The highlights weren't limited to the game, either.

One of the night's shining moments came before the first pitch when Major League Baseball honored Giants legend Willie Mays.

The "Say Hey Kid" made his entrance through the center-field fence and was escorted by Bonds as players from the AL and NL lined up on different sides. Mays tossed out the ceremonial first pitch from shallow center field (Reyes caught it), then rode in a 1963 Cadillac El Dorado convertible around the infield warning track, throwing balls into the crowd.

"It was Willie's stage," said Bonds, Mays' godson.

Well, his and the city of San Francisco's. Oh, and Suzuki's, too.

All of it on a night in which the direction of the All-Star Game stayed all too steady.

Contact Rick Hurd at rhurd@cctimes.com