The 43-year-old Bonds deposited San Diego Padres starter Clay Hensley’s 2-1 offering into the left field seats with none out in the second inning.
It was the seven-time National League MVP’s 21st homer of the year and first since July 27, although San Diego got some measure of revenge when Khalil Greene delivered a bases-loaded single in the 12th inning to secure a 3-2 victory.
However, the evening belonged to Bonds. “I’ve wanted to try to relax so much and try to take my mind away from it,” he said. “It’s the toughest thing that I’ve ever done in my career.
“It’s literally different than any other milestone I’ve ever gone through. It’s like, Hank Aaron. I can’t explain the feeling of it, it’s just Hank Aaron.”
Commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, was watching when Bonds tied Aaron’s record, which has stood for more than 30 years, and offered his best wishes after the event.
“Congratulations to Barry Bonds as he ties Major League Baseball’s home run record,” Selig said in a statement.
“No matter what anybody thinks of the controversy surrounding this event, Mr Bonds’ achievement is noteworthy and remarkable,” Selig added, in an apparent reference to the unproven claims of steroid abuse which have long surrounded Bonds.
The fans in attendance, most of whom already were on their feet, cheered loudly enough to drown out a smattering of boos.
Security and police officers lined the perimeter of the field as Bonds’ team-mates – led by his son Nikolai – came out of the dugout to greet him at home plate. It was an awkward moment for right-hander Hensley, who became the 445th pitcher to give up a homer by Bonds.
“I felt like I played it the right way, like I played the game the right way tonight,” Hensley said.
“I wasn’t trying to pitch around him, I went after him and he hit a ball that was up.”
San Diego manager Bud Black added: “Clay is one of hundreds, including myself, that have given up one to Barry.”
Prior to the historic 382-feet blast, Bonds has been two-for-11 with five walks in his career against the 27-year-old right-hander.
“My family actually told me that Hensley was going to challenge me,” Bonds said. It’s a really tough situation. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s a different feeling than any of the other ones. The hard part is over right now,” he added. “It‘s a great feeling.”
Bonds announced he will not play against the Padres on Sunday, giving him the chance to hit the record-breaking homer in front of the home fans tonight when the Giants host the Washington Nationals in the opener of a four-game series.
Bonds set the single-season record for home runs in 2001, when he blasted 73 at the age of 37 to eclipse the mark of 70 set by Mark McGwire in 1998. However, that fuelled unsubstantiated allegations of steroid use against Bonds, who had never hit more than 49 homers – in 2000 – in a season prior to the record-breaking year.
Bonds has always strenuously denied the allegations and was already well on the way to a Hall of Fame career before the suspicions arose.
Bonds had hit more than 40 homers three times in his first 14 years in the majors. But starting in 2000, he belted 258 over the next five seasons, hitting over 40 in each year.
During that span, Bonds won four consecutive MVP awards (2001-2004), giving him an unprecedented seven.
Only former NHL great Wayne Gretzky, who collected nine, earned more MVP awards among the four major professional sports in the United States.
In 1998, he became the first player in major league history to amass 400 home runs and 400 steals, and has won nine Gold Gloves.
Bonds also is one of just four players in the 40-40 club, hitting 42 home runs and stealing 40 bases in 1996.
The other three players to accomplish that feat are Jose Canseco, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano.