Tuesday, April 13, 2004

S.F. Examiner: Bonds ties Mays: "Bonds ties Mays
Slugger crushes No. 660 into McCovey Cove.
Bonds ties Mays

All that remains for Barry Bonds, other than baseball immortality, are Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron.

A place among the legends is as much a certainty for Bonds as the ultimate destination of the ball that leapt from his bat in the fifth inning, career home run No. 660, a soaring line drive that tied the Giants' superstar with his godfather, Willie Mays, for third place on the all-time list.

Bonds' second homer of the season splashed down in McCovey Cove, propelling the Giants to a 7-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers and delighting a crowd of 42,548 in Monday's home opener at SBC Park.

It also set him on a direct course for the game's greatest sluggers. Surpassing Ruth's 714 homers and Aaron's 755, while not an absolute certainty, seems to be only a matter of time.

"This is probably the icing on the cake," Bonds said. "I really wish my dad could have been here to be a part of this, but it's a great honor to be able to do this today at home, in front of our hometown fans, to be able to have Willie here.

"I just really can't believe it, being 4 years-old at the time my dad came up into the major leagues and having an idol like Willie Mays take me under his wing, and now sitting up in front of all of you people answering questions (about) what it's like to tie the man you respected and honored your entire life."

Despite going five games without a homer after reaching No. 659 Monday night in Houston, Bonds pounced on a 3-1 pitch from Milwaukee starter Matt Kinney (0-1) in the fifth, the second hit in a 3-for-3 day that included an RBI single in the third inning and a double and run scored in the seventh. His three-run shot traveled an estimated 442 feet and transformed a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead.

After turning on Kinney's inside fastball, Bonds threw his arms in the air then clapped once.

"I knew I hit it," Bonds said.

As he approached home, he was met by several teammates, stepped purposefully on the plate and lifted both arms skyward.

Mays, who attended the season's first seven games, stepped forward carrying the Olympic torch he'd carried for the 2002 Winter Games.

He presented it to Bonds, who put his arm around Mays as the pair stood before a standing ovation.

After briefly disappearing into the dugout amid a sea of high-fives, Bonds returned and waved to the crowd as the chant, "Barry! Barry!" washed over the park.

For a moment, the steroid controversy and federal trial that's targeting his personal trainer seemed to fade into the background. Whether he'd used performance-enhancing substances or not was a question that would be addressed another day.

"The fans appreciate a good baseball player," manager Felipe Alou said. "... Barry Bonds is a great athlete, not only in baseball, but a tremendous athlete. I believe the fans, especially here, that have seen the best of Barry as a baseball player, appreciate the entire package of athlete that he is, still. And they come to see baseball. I know some guys were booing in some of the cities, but they love the guy."

Bonds endeared himself to the locals with his defense too. In the top of the 8th , with the Giants (4-3) nursing a two-run lead, he ranged into left center to rob Lyle Overbay of extra bases with a running backhand catch.

Bonds' heroics made a winner out of starter Jerome Williams (1-1), who allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings. The Brewers (4-4) touched him up early, scoring once in the first, adding two in the third and another run in the fifth.

The second-year right-hander's shaky outing was but an afterthought, however, as San Francisco opened a 10-game homestand with a dramatic victory, one that was accompanied with a sense of relief.

"It was like a weight was just lifted off my shoulders," Bonds said. "I felt a sense of accomplishment in the game of baseball, a relief now to be able to stand next to my godfather and finally feel like I've accomplished something in the game of baseball. I felt like it was a big way of getting his approval that I've finally done something."

Leave it to the 73-year-old Mays, who hit his 660th as a member of the New York Mets in August 1973, to keep the pressure on.

"I think it's appropriate that he'd do it in a Giants uniform and that's really what I wanted him to do," Mays said. "I felt that it's history and history has to keep going. Now the next is Ruth -- can he get that?

"To me I think it's important to not look at who he's going after, just keep doing his thing. I think it's important that he stays healthy, keep doing what he has to do, and keep moving."

All-time home run leaders

1. Hank Aaron -- 755

2. Babe Ruth -- 714

T3. Barry Bonds -- 660

T3. Willie Mays -- 660

5. Frank Robinson -- 586

6. Mark McGwire -- 583

7. Harmon Killebrew -- 573

8. Reggie Jackson -- 563

9. Mike Schmidt -- 548

10. Mickey Mantle -- 536


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