Click photo to enlarge
Barry Bonds celebrates at home with son Nikolai at home plate.
SAN FRANCISCO -- It was a simple act. The home run always has been. Barry Bonds swung his bat, laying its sweet spot against the incoming pitch. The sound was unmistakable, the ball's flight undeniable.

It was over in fewer than 10 seconds. Bonds dropped his bat and raised his arms as the 756th home run of his career took flight, an increasingly distant speck against the Tuesday night sky. Washington Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik rubbed the back of his neck, contemplating his side-door entrance into baseball's Great Big Book of Everything. A crowd of 43,154 true worshippers rose to their feet in a great pulsing holler. The ball disappeared into a roiling cauldron of bounty hunters in the stands behind the center field wall.

A simple act. And yet not so simple, in that it occasioned a moment so complexly profound that it will resonate for years.

It was Bonds' moment, of course. Whatever you care to say about the man, you have to acknowledge his prodigious ability. Gifted beyond the point of having to answer to anything beyond his own inclinations, he forged this moment in the manner of his choosing. That right there is a lot of people's dream. After the game -- an 8-6 Giants loss, incidentally -- he was dreaming large.

"I don't know how it feels," he said, flanked by his three children and with his mother and aunt seated nearby. "Right now I'm very happy it's over with."

It also was the Giants' moment. Here it begins to get complex.


Advertisement

Ask Bonds' two dozen teammates their opinions of the man, his mores and the carnival his pursuit of what used to be Hank Aaron's career home run record has visited upon the team, and you'll get two dozen takes. They will span the spectrum, guaranteed.

They seemed happy enough for him as he circled the bases with, if body language is to be believed, a satisfied trot. They even gave him a champagne toast in the postgame clubhouse.

"We were all very proud for him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's a time we'll all remember. We'll never forget this."

Giants managing partner Peter Magowan foresaw this moment, this destiny when he set his sights on the plum of the 1992 free-agent crop. Then, Bonds was a skinny hybrid who could perform just about every baseball-specific skill better than just about every other player on the field.

The spot where Bonds' landmark homer landed Tuesday night was in the middle of a gritty, grimy row of warehouses back then. It was toxic, dangerous and wholly unappealing. The Giants seemed entrapped in a windblown stadium nearly as unappealing.

Aaron's record was as safe as any record could be. The fences were more distant then, the bats less dense, the balls more loosely wound. Five hundred career home runs seemed a daunting goal. Seven hundred was out of the question.

No one had a clue about steroids. Few had formed any judgments about Bonds. The Giants? They were irrelevant.

Few teams have been as relevant as the Giants during the past few weeks, and none for the same reason. Great, screeching packs of media have followed the team from city to city. If there was fatigue to the story, there also was the interest to follow it until history had been achieved.

Bonds rounded third. His son Nikolai stood at home plate with his arms raised in triumph. Fathers and sons -- that's a baseball story that predates the home run. Fireworks twinkled above. Two massive banners unfurled from the light standards framing the center field scoreboard.

Funny thing about baseball's great records. They belong to the recordmakers, yes. But they also belong to the baseball-loving public. That goes double when home runs are concerned. It's almost like the presidency. Someone gets to occupy the office. But it belongs to the people.

Such is our regard for the home run, one of the most majestic acts in sports, that it mattered to us how Bonds got to this place and time. It mattered whether commissioner Bud Selig was there to see it (he wasn't, though he phoned Bonds afterward). It mattered whether it happened at home in front of an approving crowd (it did).

And it mattered what Aaron thought. Then suddenly, incredibly, Aaron was on the huge video board offering a taped message of congratulation. The man who has maintained a vigilant emotional distance from Bonds for the past few months offered what for all the world sounded like sincere congratulations.

"I move over now," Aaron said, "and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement."

It was a simple blessing for a simple act. And our invitation to join him on the high road, where you can't beat the view.

Reach Gary Peterson at gpeterson@cctimes.com.