SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -The mystery has been solved. The final video tribute to Barry Bonds after he broke Hank Aaron's career home run record came from the Hammer himself.
Not interested in being in attendance when his 33-year-old record was broken, Aaron offered a video tribute to Bonds on Tuesday night after the San Francisco Giants slugger hit the record-breaking homer off Mike Bacsik of the Washington Nationals.
``I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds on becoming baseball's career home run leader. It is a great accomplishment which required skill, longevity and determination,'' Aaron 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.''
The message was greeted by two standing ovations from the Giants fans and capped a roster of sporting luminaries who offered their congratulations to Bonds in video messages shown on the scoreboard during his chase of the record.
First was Joe Montana, then Michael Jordan. They were followed by Wayne Gretzky and Muhammad Ali - a remarkable collection of some of the greatest living athletes in a variety of sports.
The Giants players were guessing who would be the capper and it was first baseman Ryan Klesko who had the right answer.
``Maybe,'' Klesko said of Aaron before the game. ``He may shock the world.''
Manager Bruce Bochy said everyone in the dugout was guessing who would give the message Monday night to honor Bonds. Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez were mentioned as possibilities, but no one thought of Ali.
Dave Roberts thought it could be Cal Ripken or Tiger Woods. Randy Winn threw out Pele and Willie Mays as suggestions.
But the answer was Aaron.
The first message came from Montana, the Hall of Fame quarterback who led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl titles. When the Giants returned home for their first game after Bonds hit his 753rd homer on July 23, Montana's message was played.
``Hey Barry, Joe Montana here. Congratulations on a great career and good luck on the road to history, and remember don't just break that record, give 'em a number that no one will reach,'' he said.
Next up in this batting order for the ages was Jordan, the NBA great who is one of the most recognized athletes in the world. On the night Bonds hit homer No. 754, Jordan's message was played.
``Hey Barry, it's Michael Jordan,'' he said. ``I just want to congratulate you on your historic event. I'm very happy for you. Ever since the first day I saw you in the batting cage, you've been working toward this for a long period of time. So I want to wish you and Elizabeth and that beautiful girl of yours congratulations. I'm very happy for you.''
Bonds was greeted the next night with a pregame message from Gretzky, the greatest hockey player ever.
``Hey Barry, Wayne Gretzky here,'' he said. ``On behalf of my wife and kids we want to congratulate you on a job well done, but remember don't stop there and we'll be rooting for you as you chase down history.''
Then when Bonds returned home Monday night for the first time since tying Aaron's mark on Saturday in San Diego, it was boxing legend Ali and his son Asaad.
``Hey Barry, this is Asaad, I'm here with my father, Muhammad,'' Asaad said. ``We want to congratulate you on hitting 755 home runs, it's been a great milestone. We've both been great fans of yours throughout your career. We just want to wish you good luck on your road to history. Don't stop.''
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AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.
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