SAN FRANCISCO—A sellout crowd rose to its feet and exploded into ecstatic cheers Tuesday night as Barry Bonds completed the downfall of America's most revered sport by hitting a thundering 435-foot shot into the right center field bleachers for career home run No. 756 and tainting baseball's most beloved record.
Celebrations broke out throughout AT&T Park and thousands of flashbulbs went off as Bonds took his ceremonial trip around the bases, his arms raised in a jubilant gesture of triumph as he completed his desecration of baseball. Fireworks filled the night sky to mark the utter destruction of the national pastime, a scramble for the infamous baseball broke out in the stands, and the game was interrupted for 10 minutes in the bottom of the fifth to mark the shameful occasion.
Mike Bacsik, the pitcher who made the difficult and admirable decision to pitch to Bonds as if he were a normal player, and who will forever be known as the man whose fastball was sent out of the park along with the last remnant of baseball's self-respect, could only watch. Bonds would later present Bacsik with an autographed bat.
Moments after Bonds crossed home plate into the loving arms of his family and the eventual judgment of history, he addressed the fans, thanking them for their support on his long, hard road of perverting baseball.
"Thank you very much. I got to thank all of you, all the fans here in San Francisco. It's been fantastic," he said to his deluded and complicit home crowd as his godfather Willie Mays, a fading symbol of what baseball once was, stood at his side.
As soon as Bonds completed his self-congratulation, a self-conscious gasp could be heard as a videotaped message from Hank Aaron was played over the video screen, sending surprise and a fleeting moment of uncomfortable self-awareness through both the crowd and Bonds himself.
"Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years," said Aaron, whose legacy of persevering with profound personal dignity through racism and persecution to become the all-time home run leader will hopefully not be tarnished by public acknowledgment of Bonds.
"I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historic achievement," Aaron concluded, displaying infinitely more grace than Bonds, baseball fans, and perhaps even baseball itself had any right to ask of him.
Bonds then presented his helmet, gloves, and bat to a steward of the Baseball Hall of Fame for shipment to Cooperstown, where they will be enshrined forever, allowing fathers and sons to come and stare at them glumly as they bear mute witness to baseball's diminished glory.
The Nationals won the game, 8-6.