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AARON'S BIG SURPRISE: HIS BLESSING

It was late Tuesday, and exhaustion engulfed Larry Baer's face. The Giants' chief operating officer, part of the organization since Peter Magowan purchased it in December 1992 and signed Barry Bonds as a free agent, was winding down from Bonds' coronation as the home run king.

Yet the mention of Hank Aaron, and his surprising participation in Bonds' coronation as the new home run king, seemed to re-energize Baer. "It was amazing it was kept secret," he said.

Aaron, who proclaimed months ago he would not personally witness Bonds knocking him into second place on the career list, had taped a message to Bonds in anticipation of homer 756.

Aaron, 73, agreed to do the video last month at the urging of commissioner Bud Selig, who befriended Aaron, a former Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves player, more than 50 years ago.

"He (Selig) figured that this would be the best way to handle it, and I agreed," Aaron said recently to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Just make one statement (on Bonds breaking the record) and then be done with it."

The Giants played it during a ceremony after Bonds' blast.

"I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds on becoming baseball's career home run leader," Aaron said. "It is a great accomplishment which requires skill, longevity and determination. 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 historical 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."

"It meant everything," Bonds said of Aaron's appearance. "It meant absolutely everything."

FAST FACTS

Henry Aaron's legacy

The deposed home run king hit his record-breaking 715th home run April 8, 1974, off the Dodgers' Al Downing. He hit his 755th and final home run July 20, 1976, off the Angels' Dick Drago.

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