It was gone the minute Barry Bonds hit it. The question was: Where would it land?
Bonds' 756th career home run, the one that would make him American baseball's all-time leader, sailed over the head of Washington Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik, who didn't even turn to watch.
It soared over the infield, and between outfielders Nook Logan and Austin Kearns. But by the time it got that far, it was clear they'd need a ticket to have a chance to catch it. It sailed blissfully on toward the biggest part of AT&T Park, a cavernous area in right-center field, seemingly on a journey without end.
Not unlike the road Bonds has traveled this season, by the way. He began the year needing 22 home runs to trump Henry Aaron's career total of 755. It was only a matter of time — four months and six days, to be exact.
That was more than enough time, it turned out, for an extended thundering debate over Bonds, his entitlement to the record, the deeper meaning of baseball's steroid age, the professional responsibilities of commissioner Bud Selig, and Aaron himself.
Bonds' quest generated so much noise over such a long period of time that it seemed only natural to wonder, as the ball nose-dived into a fortune-seeking clot of humanity, how it would be received when it finally landed.
Well, for starters, it seemed a pretty popular piece of work. The fans Bonds has referred to as family leapt to their feet and roared until AT&T Park shuddered. As Bonds made his way around the bases, his teammates made their way out of the dugout to greet him. His family — two daughters, one son, his mother, his aunt and his godfather (a fellow named Willie Mays) — made their way to the field to share the moment.
Even Bacsik gave Bonds a tip of the cap. Later, when both men were out of the game, Bacsik visited Bonds in the Giants clubhouse. There, Bonds presented him with an autographed bat. Bacsik would glow into the night.
"I soaked it all in," said Bacsik, whose father also pitched in the bigs and faced Aaron when Aaron was sitting on 755 career homers. "Giving it up to Barry Bonds is nothing to be ashamed of."
Still, there was the small matter of the court of public opinion. And here Bonds had been taking a beating of late. Selig obviously waited as long as he could, hoping for fate to take the decision out of his hands, before reluctantly attaching himself to the Bonds entourage. His statement after Bonds' Aaron-tying home run on Saturday (loose translation: "Nice going, I suppose") confirmed his lack of enthusiasm. Selig had returned to his day job by Tuesday night, though he did phone Bonds after the fact.
Boston pitcher Curt Schilling took his shots at Bonds. So did former teammate Brian Johnson, who appeared on ESPN last weekend to opine that it was implausible to believe Bonds had not used performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds heard the taunts and saw the deriding placards from no end of fans in visiting ballparks.
Giants managing partner Peter Magowan had apparently reached the end of his enabling rope with Bonds. He didn't even make the Giants' most recent road trip to Los Angeles and San Diego, and missed No. 755.
Aaron? He had clearly drawn a line in the sand, implying he wouldn't walk across the street to watch Bonds swing a bat.
There is no denying the cumulative effect of all this disapproval was to detract from the moment at hand. But a stunning thing happened after Bonds rounded the bases Tuesday, after the fireworks and water show went off, after the cheers died down, after Bonds' short speech to the home crowd.
There was a pause for a video tribute to be shown on the scoreboard in center field. These taped love notes had become a ritual after the past few Bonds home runs. They'd come from Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Muhammad Ali. Now the stadium fell silent to see who would be next.
It was Aaron.
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.
"I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds on becoming baseball's career home run leader," Aaron said. "I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement."
It was clear at that point that No. 756 had landed in a good place.
"It meant everything," Bonds said. "Absolutely everything. We've all admired Hank Aaron, we all have respect for him." And later: "I'm sure we'll come across each other and we'll sit down and talk.'
We'll see about that. But at the very least, Aaron's endorsement of Bonds' status as the new home run king takes Bonds to a place he couldn't have reached on his own. It did the same for the fence-sitters, and even some who may have thought they'd made their minds up about Bonds and his place in history.
It was an exceedingly classy act, and it was received in kind by Bonds. It infused the night with an unexpected vibe, an unanticipated touch of magic.
Bonds provided the moment, with his quick swing and iron will. But the moment wouldn't have been the same without Aaron, who once again wielded the biggest hammer of all.
Top moments from Giants slugger Barry Bonds' record-breaking night.