"On our part, I think there's a lot of sadness," said Larry Baer, the executive vice president for an organization that told Bonds last week he would not be returning to the Giants again in 2008, making these games his last after 15 seasons playing for San Francisco. "But then when you step back from the sadness, you challenge yourself to think of any run in sports that was like this one."
Bonds hit titanic shot after titanic shot in this ballpark that opened on the shores of what became known as McCovey Cove in 2000 -- 160 of his 762, to be precise. His final one was hit on Aug. 24 against Milwaukee, a one-hop drive into the cove that came only hours after he was feted by the city during a lunchtime rally near the downtown ferry terminal.
In his third and final at-bat, Bonds almost magically ended his tenure here on the same note, driving a Jake Peavy fastball just in front of the bleachers to the right of center where on Aug. 7 he hit his 756th homer to pass Aaron.
"I wanted to try to give Barry his bit of due," said Peavy, who allowed the left-handed hitter's 700th homer here on Sept. 17, 2004, an opposite-field shot into the left-center bleachers. "I certainly have the utmost respect for Barry, and I was trying to let him have his swings."
Alas, there was no magic this time. Center fielder Brady Clark hauled down the long drive, ending the Bonds era as the seven-time National League MVP jogged off the field for good, tipping his cap and waving to the club's 40th sellout crowd of the season, which gave him another in a series of resounding standing ovations.
"I think Jake pretty much knew that was Barry's last at-bat and he went after him with his best fastball," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He got the ball up on a 2-0 count. When Barry first hit it, I thought he hit enough of it."
But it was not to be, and that's the way his Giants saga concluded. Bonds said before the game that he would not appear in any of the three weekend games against the Dodgers.
"This will be the last game I'll play in," he said.
And for good reason: Bonds pulled off his socks and revealed a right big toe that is still very much swollen since he jammed it in his shoe landing on the turf at PETCO Park on Sept. 15 while battling a fan for a drive by Adrian Gonzalez that turned into a triple. Because of the sprain, he hadn't played in 10 consecutive games until Wednesday night's home closer.
Bonds finally had an MRI on the toe Wednesday morning. "At least it isn't broken," he said.
Which was more than you could say for a few hearts.
"Yeah, I'm choked up," said Peter Magowan, the team's managing general partner, after the game. "We've been through a lot over these last 15 years, mostly very, very good times."
For his part, Bonds went out somberly if not a bit defiantly, banishing the collective writers one last time from his locker before the game, telling them he was done with interviews. He said goodbye to his teammates in a 10-minute closed-door meeting, thanking them and telling some stories about his years in San Francisco.
"He just said some personal stuff, nothing major," said reliever Steve Kline. "He wasn't real emotional. Barry is Barry. You know how he is."
His sentiments to this reporter echoed the old Frank Sinatra song, which appropriately accompanied a video highlight reel that was played after the game.
"All I can say is that through all the years I had here, I did it my way," Bonds said. "I played good baseball then and I played good baseball this year. And they went out and fired me."
Well, not exactly. Bonds isn't under contract for 2008 and can file for free agency again this offseason after the end of the World Series. In his 22nd season, Bonds hit .276 with 28 homers and 66 RBIs. He blasted his last homer on Sept. 5 at Colorado, finished four RBIs short of 2,000 and 65 hits away from 3,000, marks he hopes to attain elsewhere next season.
The fact that Bonds feels he was fired despite putting up the kind of numbers he did under the pressure of the chase and passing his 43rd birthday on July 24, didn't surprise Baer.
"What I say to that is this: This has got to be tough," Baer said. "It's tough for both sides, but especially tough for him. We respect how he might feel about it. He's been playing baseball, I assume, for as long as he can remember. And before that he was in diapers in the clubhouse at Candlestick Park with his father [Bobby] and around his godfather [Willie Mays]. I can't put myself in his shoes. Baseball has been his life."
Mays was there for the final bow Wednesday night as was fellow former Giant and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. After going 0-for-3 with two grounders and the near-miss homer, Bonds leapt out of the dugout and gave the fans a final curtain call.
Then he was gone like a puff of smoke, leaving five minutes before the game ended and the video tribute began. His two lockers were completely empty, save for a bag of bats off to the side with that famous No. 25 embossed on it. Next season, those cubicles will be up for grabs, and for better or worse, the clubhouse will never be the same because of it.