Bonds Ties Aaron

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Barry Bonds swung, took a half-dozen steps and

clapped his hands. With no trace of a smile but a strong shot for

all the doubters, he caught Hank Aaron and tied the career home run

record Saturday night.

No. 755 was an opposite-field drive to left-center field, moving

Bonds within one swing of having baseball's pinnacle of power all

to himself.

Commissioner Bud Selig stood up and put his hands in his pockets

while Bonds' family hugged and high-fived. When Bonds crossed the

plate, he lifted his batboy son, Nikolai, and carried him several

steps in an embrace.

The Petco Park crowd stood and cheered, with some boos mixed in,

when the San Francisco slugger homered off Clay Hensley in the

second inning. Several fans held up asterisk signs.

Bonds was booed as he headed to left field at the end of the

inning. The 43-year-old star has been shadowed by suspicions of

steroid use for several years, which some fans feel has tainted his

chase for home run record.

It had been eight days since Bonds hit his 754th home run, and

he came out for early batting practice Saturday, hoping to break

his slump. He did it quickly, homering to lead off the second.

Bonds hit the tying homer, in fact, off a former Giants draft

pick who was suspended in 2005 for violating baseball's minor

league steroids policy.

Earlier in the day, Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th home run. Like

Bonds, he took advantage of his first opportunity of the game,

connecting at Yankee Stadium.

Bonds' milestone shot came at 7:29 p.m. PDT and traveled an

estimated 382 feet. The ball clunked off an advertising sign on the

facade and fell into the navy blue bleachers below - right below

the main scoreboard featuring a giant photo of the smiling slugger.

A fan sitting in that area threw back a ball onto the field, but

that was not the historic ball. The man who ended up with the

prized souvenir was whisked to a secure area so the specially

marked ball could be authenticated.

After Bonds crossed the plate, teammate Ryan Klesko hugged him.

Bonds slowly walked through a greeting line of other Giants.

Moments later, he walked over to the field-level seats and kissed

8-year-old daughter Aisha and wife, Liz, through the screen.

Bonds then lifted his cap before going to the far end of the

dugout and hugging Sue Burns, the wife of late Giants ownership

partner Harmon Burns.

The godson of Willie Mays and the son of an All-Star outfielder,

Bonds seemed destined for greatness from the start. Funny thing,

his speed drew a lot more attention than his strength when he broke

into the majors as a lanky leadoff hitter.

Even when Bonds became a threat to Aaron's record, many fans

thought age would slow him down. Instead, his power numbers surged

- as did speculation about steroid use.

Bonds steadfastly denied that he knowingly used

performance-enhancing drugs and let the allegations bounce off him,

the same way fastballs deflected off his bulky body armor.

Choking up an inch or so on his favorite maple bats, No. 25

became the No. 1 target for boobirds outside the Bay Area. Bonds

was constantly shadowed by doubts rather than showered in affection

the way Mark McGwire was nearly a decade ago.

The whole baseball world - the whole country, really - joined

the celebration when McGwire broke Roger Maris' season home run

record in 1998. After Big Mac launched No. 62, he pointed to

heaven, hoisted his son and hugged Sammy Sosa.

Yet that story did not have a happy ending. Disgraced by a poor

performance in front of a congressional panel looking into

steroids, McGwire basically became a recluse and never came close

in his first bid to make the Hall of Fame.

Bonds broke McGwire's mark of 70, hitting 73 homers in 2001.

Ever since, he's been on a path toward Aaron, a journey that hasn't

been full of joy. Bonds has been hobbled by bad knees and bickered

with Giants management, and his chase was hardly backed by Selig.

A lot of fans, in fact, are already rooting for the day when

Bonds' record falls. While Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas

are next up among active players, Rodriguez is considered the most

likely successor. The Yankees star just turned 32 and is well ahead

of Bonds' pace at the same age.

That said, Bonds' quest was the main reason Giants owner Peter

Magowan brought Bonds back for a 15th season in San Francisco,

signing the slugger to a $15.8 million, one-year contract right

before spring training.

Even with Bonds at 755, there is bound to be a split among many

fans over who is the real home run champ.

There will be some who always consider Babe Ruth as the best -

those old films of him wearing a crown will last forever. Others

will give that honor to Aaron, as much for his slugging as his

quiet dignity in breaking Ruth's record in 1974.

While steroids tinged Bonds' chase, race was the predominant

issue when Aaron took aim at Ruth's mark of 714.

Aaron dealt with hate mail and death threats from racist fans

who thought a black man was not worthy of breaking the record set

by a white hero, the beloved Babe. Bonds, too, has said he deals

with racial issues and that threats have been made on his life at