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Say Hey! Bonds ties Mays with 660
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04/12/2004 11:27 PM ET
Say Hey! Bonds ties Mays with 660
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Willie Mays presents his godson, Barry Bonds, with a ceremonial torch after Bonds matched Mays with 660 homers. (Ben Margot/AP)
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Say what? Barry Bonds has tied Say Hey.

History was made Monday at SBC Park's Opening Day when Bonds tied his godfather, Willie Mays, by hitting home run No. 660. Mays figuratively and literally passed the torch to his godson. The next one will place Bonds all alone in third on Major League Baseball's all-time career homer list. Only Babe Ruth (714) and Hank Aaron (755) lie ahead.

The feat, coming in the seventh game of the 2004 season, his 18th in the big leagues, seems even more special because Bonds is nearly three months away from his 40th birthday and doesn't appear to be slowing down one bit. He is 54 homers behind the Babe and could do it this year with another spectacular season. Then, he can seriously take aim at Aaron, who is 95 homers and perhaps two more seasons away.

The milestone is particularly poignant for Bonds because of his relationship with Mays, his godfather and now the father figure and batting coach he'd been missing so dearly since the death last year of his own father, former Giants great Bobby Bonds.

"I just feel like right now I completed our family circle," Bonds said. "Willie took my dad under his wing when he first came up and taught my dad a lot about baseball and became a real close friend of my father's.

"It's my dad in right field, Willie in center field and I get to be in left field. There's just no greater feeling than completing the circle of my family."

Bonds hit the 442-foot historic blast into McCovey Cove on a 3-and-1 fastball from Brewers right-hander Matt Kinney for the 32nd Splash Hit at SBC Park and 28th for Bonds. The three-run shot gave the Giants a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning of their home opener, bringing the sellout crowd at SBC Park to its feet with the crack of the bat.

After hitting the ball and seeing its flight, Bonds bowed his head and clapped his hands before beginning his trot, meeting J.T. Snow and Ray Durham at home plate after they'd scored. Following his normal point to the sky in honor of his late father, Bonds met Mays in front of the Giants' dugout, where Mays passed a jewel-encrusted ceremonial Olympic torch to him.

"It was a relief to now stand next to my godfather and feel like I accomplished something," said Bonds, who received another standing ovation when he took his place in left field.

In a press conference after the game, Mays was quick to assure the younger Bonds that he already had accomplished plenty in his godfather's eyes well before his soaring shot into the Cove on Monday.

"First of all, Barry doesn't need approval from me because I've been there since he was 5 years old," Mays said. "Whatever he does, right or wrong, I'm going to be there for him. I think it's appropriate that he does it in a Giants uniform; that's what I really wanted."

And so begins the next countdown. Mays will be there alongside Bonds even when the younger star has passed him on the charts.

Mays, whose career was petering out at 42 years of age in 1973 when he hit his last homers for the New York Mets, said Bonds needs to hit at least 35 homers this season if he expects to catch Aaron.

"He's got to hit 40 this year, maybe 35," Mays said. "He might be able to get there, but that's a tall order. It might catch up to him age wise. He said he can do it. And I'm not going to doubt him. He's done some amazing things."

Mays, who played his first 20 years for the Giants in both New York and San Francisco, was ready to walk away from the game in 1973, but Joan Payson, the Mets' original owner, called him back.

"She said, 'Willie, you can't walk away. You have a lifetime contract,' So I finished out the season," he said.

Mays, now 72, hit only six homers that season.

No. 659 came off St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Diego Segui on Aug. 3 at Shea Stadium, a three-run shot in the seventh inning. Two weeks later -- Aug. 17, 1973, to be exact -- Mays hit his last homer. It was a solo shot leading off the fourth inning against Cincinnati right-hander Don Gullet, also at Shea.

His career ended after the Mets lost a seven-game World Series to the Oakland A's, a team in the midst of winning three consecutive championships.

Mays only played in the World Series four times -- his 1954 Giants, still playing in New York's old hallowed Polo Grounds, swept the Cleveland Indians for his only World Series ring.

Bonds has played in the World Series once. In 2002, he hit four homers, but the Giants lost to the Anaheim Angels in seven games.

"My game wasn't home runs," said Mays, who only hit 60 homers in the last four seasons of his 22-year career. "I was a guy who tried to do everything. I wasn't just a home run hitter. I was a good base runner. I could throw and field. I wasn't one-dimensional. I played as long as I could and I enjoyed every minute."

Unlike Mays, Bonds' greatest power surge has come at a time in his career when most baseball players are winding down. He hit a record 73 homers in 2001 and has followed that with 46 homers in 2002 and 45 in 2003, the latter when he played in only 130 games. He missed time last season -- his 17th -- because his father, Bobby, a former Giant and teammate of Mays, was sick and ultimately succumbed to cancer.

Including No. 659, a three-run shot that came with one out in the eighth inning during Monday night's season opener at Minute Maid Park on the first pitch served to him by Houston starter Roy Oswalt, Bonds has now hit 215 homers since the start of the 2000 season.

"It's amazing," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Barry Bonds has a magnificent career, no question about it. He deserves all the credit in the world."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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