San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds has passed Hank Aaron for the Major League Baseball career home run record. But the achievement is under a cloud because of allegations of steroid use. As VOA's David Byrd reports, Bonds broke the record in his home stadium Tuesday, but baseball's commissioner and the former home run king were not there to witness the achievement.
Giants' broadcaster Jon Miller called the historic hit in the fifth inning of Tuesday's game against the Washington Nationals. With the long blast over the center field fence, Barry Bonds had number 756, surpassing Hank Aaron as the all-time home run king.
The hit off Nationals' pitcher Mike Bacsik touched off a raucous celebration at San Francisco's home field, AT&T Park. After touching home plate and being greeted by his family and his godfather - former Giants' star Willie Mays - an emotional Bonds thanked the fans and especially his father, the late Bobby Bonds, who had also been a major league player.
"Through all this, you guys [the fans] have been strong and you have given me all the support in the world, and I will never forget it as long as I live, thank you," he said. "I have got to thank my family - my mother, my wife Liz, my kids, Nikolai, Shakara, and Aisa, my dad - thank you for everything."
As part of the celebration, and coming as a surprise to almost everyone, former home-run king Hank Aaron congratulated Bonds by way of a recorded video on the stadium's big screen.
"I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds on becoming baseball's career home-run leader," he said. "It is a great accomplishment, which required skill, longevity and determination."
Also absent in person from the game was Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who had been in attendance Saturday in San Diego when Bonds tied Hank Aaron's career mark of 755 home runs. Selig issued a statement saying that he had spoken to Bonds by phone after the historic record-breaking hit.
After the game, Bonds told reporters he hoped that the milestone was not tainted by allegations that he used steroids. The Giants' slugger said he hoped that his team can now focus on winning games instead of the home run chase.
"Now, you know the hard part is over and we get to actually like go back to our everyday routines and enjoy ourselves," Bonds said. "Like we said in there today, 'Let us now just start having some fun, now that we get some peace and quiet, we can just turn the music up, have a good time and enjoy it.'"
Peace and quiet is not something Bonds has enjoyed lately. He has been at the center of a doping controversy that included congressional hearings, suspensions and several colorful figures.
Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson remains in jail for refusing to testify against the slugger before a grand jury. Anderson has been connected to the so-called BALCO scandal surrounding a San Francisco-area laboratory that produced steroids. The head of the lab - Victor Conte - has completed his jail time for his part in the case.
According to the book Game of Shadows - by two San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reporters who broke the story of a sports steroids scandal - Bonds decided to use steroids in an attempt to surpass the achievements of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. McGwire and Sosa helped revive baseball with their memorable home run race in 1998 in which both exceeded Roger Maris's single-season record of 61.
The steroid scandal also swirled around New York Yankees hitter Jason Giambi, who has publicly confessed to steroid use. Sprinters Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones, NFL players Bill Romanowski and Barret Robbins, and swimmer Amy Van Dyken were also among those caught up in the drug allegations.
Last year, Commissioner Selig appointed former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to investigate steroid use in baseball. But because Mitchell does not have the power to compel players to talk to him, his probe is still in progress.
Bonds has consistently denied using steroids, but many fans are skeptical that his performance was due to workouts only. But for now, Barry Bonds can bask in the title of all-time home run king.