SAN FRANCISCO -- Whatever Barry Bonds felt remained locked inside his heart, if not the Giants’ clubhouse.
Bonds played what he said would be his final game in a San Francisco Giants uniform Wednesday night, an 11-2 loss to the San Diego Padres at AT&T; Park in which he was 0 for 3 and committed an error but nearly homered in his final at-bat. Bonds, who was told by the Giants last week that he would not be re-signed next season, won’t play in his team’s season-ending series at Dodger Stadium that starts Friday because of a sprained big toe on his right foot.
However much the packed house of 42,926 adoring home fans chanted his name and however many signs they held up, the expression on Bonds’ face barely changed. Taken out in the seventh inning, he gave a curtain call and retreated to the clubhouse with the crowd still on its feet.
“I’m sure it had to be a difficult day for Barry,” Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said. “But he handled it well.”
News that the ball that Bonds hit to break Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record would be sent to the Hall of Fame branded with an asterisk to denote his alleged use of steroids didn’t spoil the night for the crowd, which resumed chanting his name toward the end of a postgame tribute to him on the video scoreboard.
Bonds’ teammates came out of the clubhouse to throw balls in the stands. Bonds didn’t.
The only glimpse of emotion Bonds showed was out of the public’s eye and in the Giants’ clubhouse before the game when he spoke to his teammates for about 10 minutes.
“He said some stuff from the heart,” reliever Steve Kline said. “He was talking about his 15 years here.”
How emotional was he?
“Barry’s Barry,” Kline said.
There were video tributes before and after the game, as well as between innings, each segment ending with the message, “Thank you, Barry.” The left-field area where Bonds lined up had his last name and number painted on the grass. And when he walked out to the outfield for the start of the contest, a banner was unfurled over the left-field wall that read at the bottom, “A Giant Forever.”
Bonds heard the call of the crowd and saluted the fans several times, but his body couldn’t respond. He weakly grounded out in the first and fourth innings, and drove a ball to the warning track in right-center in the sixth.
Like that, Bonds’ decade-and-a-half run with the Giants was over, marking the end of an era in which he won five of his seven most-valuable-player awards and hit 586 of his 762 home runs. Bonds has said he will seek employment elsewhere next season.
But the day didn’t end without the kind of circus-like events that have marked Bonds’ tenure in San Francisco.
A woman climbed over the left-field wall in the sixth inning and ran in his direction, only to be cut off by security guards.
And earlier in the day, Marc Ecko, the fashion designer who paid $752,467 for the ball hit for the record 756th home run and then set up an Internet site to allow fans to vote on the fate of the ball, announced that the asterisk prevailed over the two other options -- presenting the ball to the Hall of Fame as is or launching it into space.
Echo said more than 10 million votes were cast.
The resolution would appear to be to the liking of Commissioner Bud Selig, whose ambivalence was best reflected when he stood with hands in pockets after Bonds hit No. 755. When he hit No. 756, Selig issued a statement calling the achievement “noteworthy and remarkable” yet citing the “issues which have swirled around this record.”
In essence, then, didn’t the voters assign the asterisk that Selig might have liked to?
Rich Levin, a spokesman for Selig, said the commissioner declined to answer that question, or any others about Wednesday’s announcement.
Brad Horn, a Hall of Fame spokesman, said it had not been decided when the ball would go on display or whether the word “steroids” would be used in the accompanying explanation.
“The text is not written,” Horn said. “It’s very likely there will be some sort of extended explanation as to why the ball features a mark that is not a mark from the field of play. That story has to be explained.”