(Bonds celebrates as he circles the bases. Kevork Djansezian, AP Photos)
At San Diego's Petco Park, Barry Bonds hits a home run off Padres' pitcher Clay Hensley -- giving him 755 for his career, and tying him with Hank Aaron for the most all time.
Bonds had been stuck on 754 for over a week. After failing to hit No. 755 at home against the Florida Marlins, Bonds journeyed to Chavez Ravine, where he was booed not only for the steroid allegations but for being a hated San Francisco Giant. His three-game stop in Los Angeles produced no home runs, though a puzzling moment did occur in the eighth inning of the third game. Bonds stepped to the plate with a man on third and was intentionally walked. It was his last at-bat in the series and the fans at Dodger Stadium roundly booed the decision to pass him. Many thought they would have cheered taking the bat out of his hands, though I guess the booers had a conflict of interest.
The Giants next tour of duty was in San Diego, the place where a fan threw a plastic syringe at Bonds the year before. Up to this point, ESPN2 had broadcasted every Giants game since Bonds hit 754. Also making an effort to follow Bonds was commissioner Bud Selig, who was in attendance for all but one of his games leading up to 755. A big story coming in was if Selig would be in attendance, as it was common knowledge that no part of him wanted to be there. One person not in attendance for any of Bonds' games was Hank Aaron, who made it clear from day one that he wasn't going to follow Bonds around.
In the second inning of the second game of the series, Barry Bonds stepped to the plate against Clay Hensley (who ironically was suspended in the minors for taking performance enhancing drugs). The camera flashes normally prevalent in Kodak moments such as this had been nearly extinguished -- expired from the eight days of waiting for 755.
The sellout crowd at Petco Park got their present on the 2-1 pitch from Hensley. Bonds hammered the outside toss to the opposite field, where it bounced off an advertising sign and into the hands of plumber Adam Hughes (symbolic if you want). The Petco crowd was very receptive and the cheers outweighed the boos. However, when he made his way to left field in the bottom of the inning, fans in the bleachers held asterisks to voice their protest.
(Many Padres fans thought the record was tainted. Kevork Djansezian, AP Photos)
(Adam Hughes shows off the valuable baseball. Photo by Lenny Ignelzi, AP Photos)
Selig's reaction was nothing if not awkward. On the ball's impact, Selig stood with his mouth agape and settled his hands inside his pockets. As 42,497 fans voiced their applause and (for some) disapproval, the loudest voice in the park was Bud Selig, who expressionlessly stared as Bonds was rounding the bases. Selig even had to be coaxed by Rangers owner Tom Hicks just to stand up.
The controversy surrounding Bud Selig's appearance had been raging for months. Ex-commisioner Bowie Kuhn hadn't been present for Aaron's 715th home run, though he was there when Hank tied the record and personally presented him with a trophy. Kuhn's decision had come to be universally disapproved, and Selig had been under tremendous pressure to be there in person when Bonds set the record. Unlike Kuhn, he did not at least go onto the field and present him with an award when he tied the record. All Selig offered Bonds was the following notice after the game:
"Congratulations to Barry Bonds as he ties Major League Baseball's home run record. No matter what anybody thinks of the controversy surrounding this event, Mr. Bonds' achievement is noteworthy and remarkable.
"As I said previously, out of respect for the tradition of the game, the magnitude of the record and the fact that all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty, either I or a representative of my office will attend the next few games and make every attempt to observe the breaking of the all-time home run record."