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Major Leaguers applaud Bonds

Major Leaguers applaud Bonds

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds' record-setting home run flew 435 feet into the center-field seats of AT&T Park on Tuesday night and kept streaking across the Major League landscape Wednesday, still sparking imaginations and tributes along the way.

From President Bush to Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh, with scores of peers and laymen in between, people symbolically bowed to Bonds' accomplishment.

Those who know him intimately ...

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"I'm tickled to death for him," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland, who steered Bonds' Major League entry with the mid-'80s Pirates. "Other people might look differently at him, but when you have a personal relationship with him ... it's different for me. I couldn't be happier.

"I raised him as a young player, and I think he raised me as a young manager. I don't say I like everything he does, but we've got a tremendous understanding and mutual respect. ... He played every day for me and he busted his tail. What else can you ask for?"

And those who hardly know him at all ...

"I think it's phenomenal," said Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts. "I'm trying to get 750 hits. It's crazy, and the numbers are just insane when you think about what he's done. Ninety-nine-point-nine [percent] of us can't put into perspective or fathom it."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had caught up in person with Bonds last month in Chicago during the Giants' series against the Cubs in Wrigley Field, issued a statement: "He remains the most feared batter with the most home runs and the most walks. I know his father rejoices tonight."

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, ready to proclaim the day-after Barry Bonds Day in his city, said, "We are honored to have witnessed his incredible accomplishment here at home in San Francisco."

Oh, whose 868 Japan League home runs endure as a global pro record, said, "[Bonds'] next milestone will be 800. I wish him all the best in reaching that next goal and will be following his pursuit ... with high expectations.

"Hitting home runs requires tenacity and passion for baseball while overcoming hardship," Oh added in his comments to The Associated Press, "and I want to congratulate him from the bottom of my heart."

White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who spent the 2004 season in San Francisco, called Bonds "the best teammate I ever saw when he stepped in the batter's box.

"Good for him," Pierzynski said. "I'm happy for him that he broke the record. Congratulations to Barry."

Reactions to Bonds' 756th homer were immediate, as peers across the country paid homage to his deed and gave thanks for being able to share his time, and kept streaming in all Wednesday.

"I got chill bumps," said the Braves' Chipper Jones. "It was one of those times in your life you're going to tell your kids and your grandbabies what you were doing the moment that he broke the record."

Indians rookie Ryan Garko doubtless spoke for his generation when he said of the moment, "That was sick." In neo-speak, that means "fantastic," the way "bad" means "best."

"It's such a big deal for all guys in my generation, who grew up seeing him play," Garko added. "It's just an amazing accomplishment. And that's a tough park to hit 'em in, too. He could have 100 more homers if he didn't play in San Francisco."

"I never got a chance to see Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle play," said the Orioles' Kevin Millar, "but we're getting a chance to see this in our generation. When we're grandfathers, we can explain it to our grandchildren, and that's what it's all about."

As games ended and ballpark lights dimmed late Tuesday night, Bonds' accomplishment fueled chatter in clubhouses.

Not everyone had waited for their games to end before offering comment.

As video of Bonds' shot played on Chase Field's scoreboard in Phoenix, Diamondbacks second baseman Orlando Hudson openly applauded at his position.

"That's great. That's unbelievable," Hudson said following the end of Arizona's game against Pittsburgh. "I can't wait to see him and give him a big old hug. He deserves it.

"He's the greatest player to walk between the lines. That's Barry Bonds. I'm going to tell my kids I played during the time of Barry Bonds. That's a great man."

Hudson has warm memories of being an All-Star teammate of Bonds and seeing his loving attention toward his toddler son.

Angels center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. can do better. He once was the little kid being tended to by Barry, when their fathers -- Bobby Bonds and Gary Matthews Sr. -- were Giants teammates from 1972 through 1974.

As he watched video of the seminal home run from center field in Angel Stadium, Matthews drifted 33 years back and 450 miles north.

"I've known Barry since I was a baby," said Matthews, 11 years younger. "I kept wondering what Barry was thinking. I thought about Barry, and his dad not being there, and how lucky I am to have my dad here.

"And I thought about Hank Aaron, everything he went through as a pioneer for future African-American ballplayers. This was quite a night."

Just as he shared the record for three days, after Bonds struck No. 755 in San Diego on Saturday night, Aaron received his share of tributes for his taped salute message to the new top dog.

"It was great," noted the Tigers' Gary Sheffield. "I'm glad he acknowledged it in a positive way. That was the biggest thing I was concerned about, just acknowledging in a positive way. Not turning this thing into a negative, and they accomplished that."

Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy, who as Dodgers skipper spent five seasons dreading Bonds across the great divide of a passionate rivalry, called him "special. That's all I can say."

"No player, in my opinion," Tracy added, "has ever impacted the game like that guy."

Others reacted with a certain element of detachment, mainly fellow managers who sensed how The Chase may have been compromising Bruce Bochy's ability to run the Giants.

The Angels' Mike Scioscia said, "You knew it was going to happen. It's over with. Maybe some of the hoopla will die down now, and I know the Giants will like a little bit of piece and quiet. It's over."

Echoed the Diamondbacks' Bob Melvin, "Congratulations. I'm sure he's happy he got it out of the way. That can grind on you pretty good.

"They're changing balls and everybody's following you around from city to city, and I'm sure, one, he's grateful he got it done at home, and two, he's probably happy it's over."

And Jason Bay, now playing in the Pittsburgh outfield to which Bonds belonged from 1986 to 1992, sounded pleased that the Bucs have been spared a role in the theatrics attendant to The Chase. The Pirates pull in here for a weekend series beginning Friday.

"You have to tip your hat to the guy. What he's done can't be discounted," Bay said. "He's one of the greatest hitters. I'm just kind of glad he did it before we got there. It would have been that much more of a circus."

Not everyone let the magic of the moment completely detract from the pervasive controversies that have formed part of Bonds' march toward the record.

Taking on the bull in the china shop head-on, Millar said, "Time will tell, but right now there's no asterisk. Right now, there's nothing but 756 home runs.

"As a fan of the game and a player of the game -- nothing's tainted. Barry Bonds is a remarkable hitter and a remarkable home run hitter."

"I'm indifferent," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle confessed. "My home run chase was Hank Aaron and the Babe. I'd congratulate [Bonds] professionally, but that's about it from me."

Other reactions from the baseball world:

• Sheffield: "It's a great feat. I'm proud of him, and I know it's something he wanted to do. I left him an e-mail congratulating him, from my family to his, and I'm glad he showed the emotions that he did. I know it was hard, doing it without his father being there. I know he wishes his dad was alive to see it. But his dad was there in spirit."

•: Moises Alou, Mets: "I'm very happy for him, very proud. I'm happy he did it in San Francisco because those people have been behind him 100 percent. At my first big-league game, he was there on my team. I got to play with him my last two years in San Francisco. It was just a treat to be able to be his teammate."

• Craig Biggio, Astros: "It's impressive. His whole career, the numbers that he has are unbelievable. Late in the game, he's the last guy you want to see up there. It's a massive number. I'm happy for him."

• Milwaukee reliever Scott Linebrink, who surrendered No. 712 on May 2, 2006, while pitching for the Padres: "I'm glad I didn't have the dubious honor. I've given one up to him. In reality, it doesn't really matter if you gave up 300 or 756, but it is the stigma that will always follow one guy."

• Jim Edmonds, Cardinals: "I think it's pretty cool. I think it's good for baseball and I just think it's a pretty neat thing."

• Scott Hairston, Padres: "It was great to witness history. I kind of got teary-eyed myself when he was giving the speech. He pointed up at the sky and said thank you to his dad. It was a great moment."

• Indians manager Eric Wedge: "It's a great accomplishment. [The controversy] has gained a lot of momentum. But the guy's a great player, and it's a great accomplishment. There's no denying that."

•: Joe Saunders, Angels: "I root for [Bonds] every time. I know there's a lot of controversy, but he deserves every bit of this."

•: Todd Jones, Tigers: "I'm happy because I was able to see a guy break a pretty prestigious record. As a baseball fan, I'm sad that it's not a slam dunk that he's the greatest player of all time. I played against him, and things like that. I still found myself wanting him to hit it, cheering for him, because I'm more appreciative of the opportunity to see a moment like that, rather than the person doing it."

• Jay Gibbons, Orioles: "I had goose bumps when he hit it. I saw it live. I had just gotten home. Incredible achievement. It's unbelievable. As a player, just to think about being healthy and being consistent for that amount of time is something you can't believe."

• Brian Bannister, Royals: "To be able to witness both [Tom] Glavine's 300th win and A-Rod's 500th [homer] all in the span of a couple days is something I'll never forget as a professional athlete. It's just a sign that despite all the things the game has dealt with in the past couple years, it's a great game and the players play for the love of it and that's what makes it so special."

• Ryan Franklin, Cardinals: "He's 1-for-1 with a homer against me. No. 738 [April 18, 2007]. I won't forget it. I'm happy for him. It's a special thing."

• Cliff Floyd, Cubs: "You admire [Mike Bacsik, the Nationals pitcher who gave up No. 756]. He wasn't afraid to pitch to him. His kids will have something to talk about for a long time -- and they'll see replays. 'Hey, Dad, that's you.'"

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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