MILWAUKEE (AP) – Commissioner Bud Selig didn’t even have to leave his own backyard to catch Barry Bonds’ chase for the home run record.
But he still won’t commit to following Bonds until he breaks it.
“I’ll do that at the appropriate time,” Selig said. “It’s just like people wanting to know if I’m coming here – I’m here.”
The San Francisco slugger was two home runs from tying Hank Aaron’s career mark of 755 on Friday, the 31st anniversary of the Hammer’s final shot. Selig said he plans to attend all three of the Giants’ games in Milwaukee this weekend unless Bonds is not in the starting lineup.
Selig said he wasn’t trying to make a statement by showing up.
“Look, I have to let everybody else make those kind of judgments,” Selig said during an impromptu news conference in the back of the press box during the fourth inning.
“I know what I feel, I know what I think. I’m here and I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Selig said it was just “common sense” that he would show up for this weekend’s games. The Brewers’ ballpark is just a short drive from the commissioner’s downtown office.
Bonds was in the lineup on Friday. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the seven-time MVP is slated to play two of the three games in Milwaukee, probably taking Saturday afternoon off after a night game Friday.
Until Friday, Selig hadn’t said publicly whether he planned to be in the stands as Bonds approached the 33-year-old record that belongs to Aaron, a close friend of the commissioner who began and ended his career in Milwaukee.
Selig and Aaron spoke by telephone on Friday, but the commissioner wouldn’t discuss what was said.
“No, I’m going to let Hank speak for himself,” Selig said.
Aaron hit his 755th and final home run at Milwaukee’s County Stadium on July 20, 1976.
“I know that people think it’s a great note of historical irony and all that, and it is, there’s no question about that,” Selig said. “It’s ironic that this is the anniversary of Hank’s last home run here, which, if you wrote a script like this, nobody would believe it.”
Selig brushed off a question about whether he would consider the record legitimate if it belonged to Bonds.
“We won’t get into that,” Selig said. “We’re here to watch, to see whether he does it and whatever else happens. I’m not passing judgment on that, nor should I.”
Selig said he hadn’t talked to Bonds “for a long time,” but balked at a reporter’s suggestion that he’d probably have to go through a lawyer to talk to the slugger at this point.
“I’m allowed to do anything I want to do,” Selig said.
The Selig family relinquished control of the Brewers before the 2005 season when Los Angeles-based investor Mark Attanasio became the principal owner of the ballclub in a $223 million deal. But Selig still has a luxury box at Miller Park and was present during the Giants’ last visit to the ballpark in June.
Although the commissioner’s attendance plans for Bonds’ pursuit of the home run record have been subject to speculation for months, Bochy didn’t seem particularly concerned about it.
“If he’s here, great,” Bochy said. “He’s our commissioner, we’re in Milwaukee.”
Bonds broke out of his worst hitting slump in six years (0-for-21) to jump within two of tying the record on Thursday, when he connected twice against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field after three days’ rest.
“He had a chance to freshen up his whole body,” Bochy said. “He was exhausted. He needed a break.”
How does Bonds feel? He considered doing a pregame session with reporters but changed his mind.
“Shhhh,” Bonds mouthed Friday, putting a finger to his mouth to ask for silence as he prepared at his locker beforehand.
Bonds then escaped the big crowd and grabbed some food, sitting in the cafeteria with pitchers Randy Messenger and Tim Lincecum. The slugger returned and sat alone, taping his bats and swinging them lightly to test their grips, then later laced up a new pair of game shoes.
Bonds better get used to the camera swarm that will surround his every move until he makes history – which is nothing new. The Brewers expected roughly 350 media members Friday, almost double their regular contingent.
While Bonds offered no memorable sound bites, he did give the photographers what they wanted. The slugger sat down in the dugout before heading out for batting practice, turned his cap backward and borrowed a couple of cameras to do some clicking of his own.
“Ever hit three in Milwaukee?” one reporter asked as Bonds walked to the cage.
“Have you ever seen me do it?” Bonds said.
“No,” the man responded.
“Neither have I,” Bonds said.
The Giants would much prefer that Bonds hits No. 755 and No. 756 at home in San Francisco’s waterfront ballpark. That’s where most of his milestone homers have come, including No. 715 on May 28, 2006, to move past Babe Ruth and into second place.
“No question our fans would love to see it at home,” Bochy said. “Sometimes you can’t control those things.”
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.