SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds raised both arms over his head like a prize fighter in victory, fists clenched -- and then he took off.
It was over at long last.
Like him or not, legitimate or not, he is baseball's new home run king.
The San Francisco Giants star hit No. 756 to the deepest part of the ballpark Tuesday night, and hammered home that very point. Bonds broke Hank Aaron's storied record with one out in the fifth inning, hitting a full-count, 84 mph pitch from Washington's Mike Bacsik.
Bonds, 43, sent the ball arcing high into the night, 435 feet into the right-center field seats.
"This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period," Bonds said.
Conspicuous by their absence were the commissioner and Hammerin' Hank himself.
Though he was on hand for the tying homer three days ago, deciding to put baseball history ahead of the steroid allegations that have plagued Bonds, Bud Selig wasn't there for the record-breaker.
Instead, he sent two emissaries, Major League Baseball executive vice president Jimmie Lee Solomon and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. Selig also issued a statement.
"While the issues which have swirled around this record will continue to work themselves toward resolution, today is a day for congratulations on a truly remarkable achievement," Selig said.
Bonds also heard personally from the commissioner.
"Bud Selig called me after the game and congratulated me. I was very happy about that," Bonds said.
As for Aaron, he said all along he had no interest in being there whenever and wherever his 33-year-old mark was broken. He was true to his word, but he did offer a taped message of congratulations that played on the stadium's video board during a 10-minute tribute.
"It is a great accomplishment which required skill, longevity and determination," he said.
"Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years. I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historic achievement.
"My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams," he said.
"When I saw Hank Aaron that made everything," Bonds said. "We've always loved him. He's always the home run king."
A woman who answered the phone at Aaron's home in Georgia shortly after Bonds' homer said that Aaron was asleep.
Felipe Lopez hit a tiebreaking double in the eighth inning for the Nationals, who won the game 8-6.
Bonds' shot to break his tie with Aaron gave the Giants a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning. The Giants extended the lead to 6-4 on Randy Winn's run-scoring single in the seventh, but the bullpen could not hold the lead and give Barry Zito the win.
Austin Kearns started the Nationals' four-run rally in the eighth inning with a double off Jonathan Sanchez. Kevin Correia (1-6) relieved with runners on first and third and one out and allowed an RBI single to Nook Logan, a game-tying single to pinch-hitter Tony Batista and Lopez's double that gave Washington a 7-6 lead. Ryan Zimmerman added a sacrifice fly to make it a two-run game.
Lopez, Kearns and Brian Schneider all homered for the Nationals, who have won seven of eight games.
Bengie Molina homered and drove in three runs for the Giants, who have lost seven of the last eight games in which Bonds has homered.
Bonds went 3-for-3 with three runs scored before being replaced in the top of the sixth inning to yet another standing ovation from the sellout crowd.
With a long, satisfied stare, Bonds watched as No. 756 sailed over the fence and disappeared into the scrum in the first few rows. Then he raised both arms over his head like a victorious prize fighter, fists clenched, and took off.
"I knew I hit it," Bonds said. "I knew I got it. I was like, phew, finally."
His 17-year-old batboy son Nikolai was already bouncing on home plate as Dad rounded third and ran the final 90 feet to make it official. After a long embrace, the rest of the family joined in -- his mother, two daughters and wife. And then there was Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who removed his cap and congratulated his godson.
Bonds saved his most poignant words for last, addressing his late father, Bobby.
"My dad," he said, looking to the sky and choking back tears. "Thank you."
Bonds had wanted to break the record at home, where he would be assured of a friendly crowd. They were all right, unlike in San Diego where some fans held up signs with asterisks indicating that his power was steroid-induced.
Bonds has always denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds had already doubled and singled before hitting the solo home run. Bacsik put his left hand to the back of his head as soon as Bonds connected.
"I dreamed about it as a kid, but when I dreamed about it, I was the one hitting the home run and not giving it up," Bacsik said.
"I didn't really want to be part of history as a bad part, but I am," he said. "I'm OK with it."
Bacsik later spoke with Bonds and got an autographed a bat from the Giants star.
Bonds took his position in left field to start the sixth, then was replaced and drew another standing ovation.
A fan wearing a Mets jersey wound up with the historic ball. Matt Murphy of New York emerged from the stands with the souvenir and a bloodied face, and was whisked to a secure room.
Even with Bonds at the top of the chart, fans will surely keep debating which slugger they consider the true home run champion. Some will continue to cling to Aaron while other, older rooters will always say it's Babe Ruth.
"It's all about history. Pretty soon, someone will come along and pass him," Mays said before the game.
Aaron held the top spot for 12,173 days after connecting for No. 715 to pass the Babe on April 8, 1974.
"This is the greatest record in all of sports," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We are all fortunate to witness it. It's awesome. This road to history has been a lot of fun."
Bonds homered exactly three years after Greg Maddux earned his 300th victory at the same ballpark. It's been quite a week of baseball milestones -- over the weekend, Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th home run and Tom Glavine won No. 300.
There are plenty of fans already hoping for the day that Bonds' total -- whatever it ends up -- is topped. Rodriguez may have the best chance, with his 500 home runs at age 32 far ahead of Bonds' pace.
Bonds said he hadn't yet thought beyond 756. He plans to play in 2008.
"I'll tell you one thing: I'm going to hit a lot better from now on," he said after a champagne celebration in the clubhouse.