Bonds reaches destination, destiny

Bonds reaches destination, destiny

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds shot his arms in the air, cast his eyes on the ground and embarked on a 360-foot tour into Valhalla.

He jogged lightly around the AT&T Park infield, perhaps not even leaving any footprints in the dirt. If you looked real close, real perceptively, you could see two angels levitate him around the diamond -- Bobby Bonds on his left shoulder, Babe Ruth on his right.

Bobby had given him baseball genes and lessons, teaching him to play hard and live in a hard shell.

And The Babe created the legacy which Bonds now inherits, his 756th homer on Tuesday night relieving Hank Aaron of the responsibility he accepted honorably for 33 years and has now relinquished nobly.

Al Downing, you're off the hook. You have been replaced, too, by another left-hander, Mike Bacsik, the newest straight-man for history's loudest punch line.

The moment of triumph, rejoice and relief arrived at 8:51 Post Meridian (PDT), Aug. 7, 2007 Anno Domini.

Bonds lashed out at Bacsik's 3-and-2 fastball and immediately dropped his bat, rocked slightly back on his heels and raised his arms -- while simultaneously 43,154 mimicked the motion all around him.

With the ball streaking toward the seats in dead center -- its arc a rainbow at the end of which Matt Murphy found his pot of gold -- he floated down the first-base line, clapping, as pandemonium that had festered for weeks erupted.

By the time he turned third, the dugout had emptied of Giants, and the box seats had emptied of his loved ones -- wife Liz, daughters Aisha and Shikari, his mother, his sister.

The biggest Giant of them all, Willie Mays, was at the head of the reception. The Say Hey Kid gave his godson a hug, and a microphone.

Far from the celebratory scrum, in the euphoria's blind spot, Washington Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young waved his teammates off the field, clearing the stage.

Responding to the roars, Bonds bowed deeply toward all parts of the ballpark. Fireworks exploded, "756" banners dropped from the light towers to frame the scoreboard, the soundtrack of conquest shook the house.

And then Hank Aaron's earnest face and smooth voice appeared on the video board, offering an olive branch that slackened everyone's jaw, moistened everyone's eyes.

"I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds on becoming baseball's career home run leader," began a speech Aaron concluded with, "I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement."

Aaron smiled. Bonds raised his helmet toward the big screen, as if Aaron could see him through the pixels.

"That meant absolutely everything to me," Bonds later acknowledged. "It hit me so fast, I didn't know what to think. It was absolutely the best."

There it was. Just as the beauty of the game continues to renew peoples' faith in the purity of baseball, Aaron reaching out to Bonds across the sea of previous acrimony once again renewed faith in the game's ability to heal wounds.

Visibly touched, Bonds quickly recovered to intone into the microphone he held, "I thank all of you -- all the fans of San Francisco. I want to thank my teammates for their support. They've given me all the support in the world and I will never forget it.

"And," he added, quickly, before his voice cracked, "my dad ..."

Bonds pointed to the sky, where his late father arose four years ago. But he couldn't for long: He soon needed his pointer to wipe the tears from his eyes.

Slowly, he receded into the dugout, along the way shaking some hands stretched out from the adjoining boxes. Once inside, he spent a private moment with manager Bruce Bochy -- who wanted to know about his preferred way to make an exit out of this game.

That decision made -- Bonds would depart in the top of the next inning as part of a double-switch, affording fans another opportunity to cheer his slow trot in from left field -- Bonds took some quality time with teammates alternating with congratulations.

Then he plopped on the bench, alone with his thoughts, his glassy eyes reflecting the depth of the emotions he was feeling.

The observance took all of 10 minutes, a blink compared to the lifetime it took to get here. At 9:01, Bacsik was back on the mound, delivering to Bengie Molina. A consistent buzz remained around the park; the audible part of electricity.

The Nationals' comeback victory permitted Bacsik to openly revel in his contribution to history without guilt.

"I'm excited," he said. "I was part of history, and we won the game. I didn't want to give it up. Now there's nothing I can do about it. Me and Al Downing are linked in history.

"I'm proud to have been part of that, and a part of Major League history."

We've all had a part. Fans from the West Coast to the Midwest. Millions have taken the ride, the older ones making daydreaming side trips to the Atlanta of an April evening long ago.

Even reporters had caught themselves taking inventory of their surroundings prior to every pitch to Bonds. They wanted to commit the images to their mental negative -- in case that became the pitch turned around into history. It was reflexive: They wanted to be able to remember everything about the moment; you know, in case the grandkids ever asked.

Are fans standing? What did that one in the right-field corner just shout? Is there still daylight? Or is that the light from the twinkling flashbulbs? Did Bonds just take a deep breath? How deep is the left fielder?

Is the fog-line above or below the palm trees? Did the pitcher flinch on that swing? What is the music rattling the speakers? What is the message on the video board?

And then, there was no more reason to reset mind's camera. All the images stuck.

Bonds reached his destination, and his destiny.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.