SAN FRANCISCO - For one spectacular moment, Barry Bonds and everybody cheering him could forget about the controversy surrounding his chase and appreciate the phenomenal feat: 756.
Nobody in the majors — not Hank Aaron, not Babe Ruth — has ever hit more home runs than the San Francisco star.
On Tuesday night, in his home ballpark, it didn’t matter how many of them might have been fueled by steroids or performance-enhancers. Bonds has the title of home run king all to himself, ending Aaron’s 33-year reign.
“This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period,” Bonds said.
And more than 43,000 adoring Giants fans, including his godfather, Hall of Famer Willie Mays, surely agreed.
Bonds raised both arms over his head like a prize fighter in victory, fists clenched — and then he took off. It was over at long last.
Bonds did it with a shot to the deepest part of the ballpark with one out in the fifth inning against Washington’s Mike Bacsik.
Bonds sent the 84-mph fastball arcing high into the night, 435 feet into the right-center field seats. And then, the celebration began in force — fireworks, streamers, banners commemorating the accomplishment, and even a party in McCovey Cove.
Conspicuous by their absence were the commissioner and Hammerin’ Hank himself.
Though he was on hand for the tying homer three days ago, deciding to put baseball history ahead of the suspicions plaguing the Giants slugger, Bud Selig wasn’t there for the record-breaker.
Instead, he sent two emissaries, Major League Baseball executive vice president Jimmie Lee Solomon and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. Selig also issued a statement.
Bonds also heard personally from the commissioner with congratulations.
“I was very happy about that,” Bonds said.
As for Aaron, he said all along he had no interest in being there whenever and wherever his record was broken. He was true to his word, but he did offer a taped message of congratulations that played on the stadium’s video board during a 10-minute, in-game tribute.
“It is a great accomplishment which required skill, longevity and determination,” he said.
“My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams.”
A woman who answered the phone at Aaron’s home in Georgia shortly after Bonds’ homer said that Aaron was asleep.
President Bush, through spokesman Tony Snow, congratulated the slugger on Wednesday, though Snow said the president was most likely asleep when Bonds connected.
“No, no call to Barry Bonds. The president does congratulate Barry Bonds on breaking really one of the most treasured records in all of sports,” Snow said. “The home run record is one that has always captured the imaginations of sports fans and it obviously was an historic occasion.”
“I knew I hit it,” Bonds said. “I knew I got it. I was like, phew, finally.”
His 17-year-old batboy son, Nikolai, was already bouncing on home plate as Dad rounded third and ran the final 90 feet to make it official. After a long embrace, the rest of the family joined in — his mother, two daughters and wife. And then there was Mays, who removed his cap and congratulated his godson.
Bonds saved his most poignant words for last, addressing his late father, Bobby.
“My dad,” he said, looking to the sky and choking back tears. “Thank you.”
Bonds has always denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.
After doubling and singling his first two times up, Bonds hit a solo home run. Bacsik put his left hand to the back of his head as soon as Bonds connected.
“I dreamed about it as a kid, but when I dreamed about it, I was the one hitting the home run and not giving it up,” Bacsik said.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Bacsik later spoke with Bonds and got an autographed a bat from the Giants star.
Bonds took his position in left field to start the sixth, then was replaced and drew another standing ovation. The Nationals won the game, 8-6.
A fan wearing a Mets jersey wound up with the historic ball. Matt Murphy of New York emerged from the stands with the souvenir and a bloodied face, and was whisked to a secure room.
Even with Bonds at the top of the chart, fans will surely keep debating which slugger they consider the true home run champion. Some will continue to cling to Aaron while other, older rooters will always say it’s Babe Ruth.
“It’s all about history. Pretty soon, someone will come along and pass him,” Mays said before the game.
Aaron held the top spot for 12,173 days after connecting for No. 715 to pass the Babe on April 8, 1974.
“This is the greatest record in all of sports,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We are all fortunate to witness it. It’s awesome. This road to history has been a lot of fun.”
Bonds is new home-run king
Aug. 7: Barry Bonds belted his 756th career homer, passing Hank Aaron to become baseball's career home run leader. MSNBC.com's Dara Brown reports.