LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, it's time for the main event!
That's right. Everything you've witnessed on this Barry-centric stage -- from the arrival in San Francisco 15 seasons ago to the five MVP awards since then to the march past 500 and 600 homers to the surpassing of godfather Willie Mays' 660 to the methodical march past the Babe and 714 -- all of it was all just the undercard for this.
Barry Bonds is at the castle. Henry Aaron's throne beckons. The final stroll has begun.
And yes, within this production lies the meaning of life for the Giants in 2007, no matter how much that might tick off the supporting cast.
Or, put another way, rarely (if ever) has an appearance by commissioner Bud Selig at the home park of the team he used to own caused such a commotion.
And to put it still another way, Bonds' 0-for-4, one-walk, one-strikeout Friday night will generate far more headlines than will his team's 8-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers that marked only one more day closer to winter vacation.
That the day also marked the strange confluence between Bonds and Aaron and the eventual passing of the torch went mostly unobserved. No matter.
To witness the 43,121 fans in Miller Park, to see the flashbulbs popping every time Bonds eyed a pitch, to see the look of bemusement -- or was that dread? -- that enveloped Giants manager Bruce Bochy when he got a glimpse of a media throng at least 100 deeper than it was a day earlier, was to realize that the final days of The Chase is not going to be community theater.
"Really, I've noticed how excited everybody is," Bochy said before the game. "We hear it at home, but to hear the excitement of the fans on the road who get to watch this guy who ... might be the greatest of all time. He gets booed, and you expect that, but he also gets cheers, and he's turned those boos to cheers. So that's been neat."
Then again, every monumental stage show has several plot lines. That Aaron hit his 755th and final home run exactly 31 years earlier in this very city and for the team against whom Bonds took his hacks Friday might've been worth at least a mention.
It didn't get one. There was no real reason for the Brewers or Bonds to honor it, because Aaron wasn't around anyway. The Hammer won't be lending his support to the abdication of his throne, and you may or may not read what you want into that decision.
It won't change the facts that Milwaukee always will be his city and 755 will always be royalty. Selig's intentions, on the other hand, have remained steeped in the tea leaves, so his arrival in the fourth inning Friday was a big deal, even if it ultimately didn't reveal much.
Selig and Aaron remain close friends, and for that reason and other sinister ones that don't need rehashing, Selig has yet to give his stamp of approval by promising he'll attend.
His presence Friday served only to engage his wide range of advisers in the fourth estate in an interesting game of chicken. Selig, ever the politician, said common sense dictated he be at Miller Park on Friday, common sense in this case being that "my office is about five miles away, it's a beautiful night ... it's a pennant race, and this is a big game for (the Brewers)."
Just as it will be today and Sunday when Selig once again shows up to root, root, root for the home team, if not No. 25.
Left unsaid was Bonds' name -- Selig didn't refer to it once during his media pow-wow -- and the commish's intentions once the Giants depart Suds City, though perhaps Selig figures the masses should just use their own common sense on that one.
"I've been saying I'll make my decision at the appropriate time, and I don't think it's fair to make a judgment on that," he said. "... I'm here to watch whether he does it or doesn't. I'm not going to make a judgment either way."
That said, the only judgment to be derived from common sense is that neither the absence of Aaron nor the ambivalence of Selig diverted attention from how grand this ultimate production is really going to be.
The signs were all around Friday and not just the conventional ones written on placards, one of which -- "I may have been only two months old when he hit his first, but I'm one of the lucky ones who grew up watching him. AMAZING!" -- seemed to speak for the rest.
With 140 newly credentialed media on hand, a jungle of boom mikes and Bonds' annoyed request to the mob circling his locker after the game to "go, just go," it's clear that showtime is here.
Dim the lights!
Contact Rick Hurd at email@example.com.
GIANTS 8, BREWERS 4
BARRY BONDS' NIGHT