SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Barry Bonds has sought Willie Mays’ approval ever since he was old enough to tag along with his godfather in the San Francisco Giants’ clubhouse. Six MVPs, a single-season record 73 home runs, and countless other accomplishments never felt like quite enough.
Hitting his 660th homer to tie Mays for third place on the career list has done the trick.
Bonds hit a towering three-run shot Monday that splashed into McCovey Cove, sending the Giants to a 7-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
“It was like a weight was just lifted off my shoulders,” Bonds said. “I felt a sense of accomplishment in baseball. It’s 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. It was a big way of getting his approval that I’ve finally done something.”
Bonds connected in the fifth inning on a 3-1 pitch from Matt Kinney (0-1) for his second homer of the season. The estimated 442-foot blast put the Giants ahead 5-4. It was the 28th time Bonds has homered into the water.
The 39-year-old Bonds was greeted at home by several teammates and he stepped on the plate, raised both hands in the air and pointed to the sky.
Mays, who turns 73 next month, hurried to congratulate Bonds, giving his godson a hug and a kiss outside the dugout. Mays presented him with a torch decorated with 25 tiny diamonds, symbolic of the number Bonds wears. They both carried the torch before the 2002 Olympics.
Bonds came back out of the dugout and waved to the fans in each direction as they cheered, “Barry! Barry!” and gave him a standing ovation. The sellout crowd of 42,548 seemed to forget about the steroid controversy surrounding their star slugger and his personal trainer.
“The fans appreciate a good baseball player,” manager Felipe Alou said. “I know some guys were booing, but they love the guy.”
Children along the left-field wall bowed to Bonds when he came out to play the field in the top of the sixth. A banner of Bonds was unfurled from the light tower to the left side of the main center-field scoreboard to match one of Mays on the other side.
“I think this is probably the icing on the cake,” Bonds said. “I really wish my dad could have been here to be part of it. … I just really can’t believe it, being 4 years old when my dad came up into the major leagues and having an idol like Willie Mays take me under his wing, and now being up in front of all of you people answering questions what it’s like to tie the man you respected and honored your entire life.”
Mays has been a mentor to Bonds since the slugger’s father, Bobby, died last August.
Hank Aaron leads the career list with 755 home runs, followed by Babe Ruth with 714.
Mays hit his 660th on Aug. 17, 1973, as a member of the New York Mets at Shea Stadium off Cincinnati’s Don Gullett.
“I don’t even recall that. That’s many years ago,” said Mays, who preferred to focus on Bonds’ accomplishment. “I wanted him to get it over with. No. 1, I felt like he was pressing. When Barry swings hard, nothing happens. Today, he made an easy, compact swing and it goes a long way.”
Bonds, who set the single-season homer record in 2001, went five games without a homer after hitting one last Monday at Houston.
“Maybe I’m just too stupid to walk him every time,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “I’d venture to say there’s not another player on this planet better than Barry Bonds.”
Bonds has repeatedly said he’d like to pass Mays at home, and the Giants began a 10-game homestand with a three-game series against the Brewers.
When Kinney saw Bonds’ ball go over the fence, the pitcher walked backward off the mound and onto the grass, trying to ignore the slugger’s historic home-run trot.
“When I saw him swing I knew it wasn’t a good thing,” Kinney said.
Bonds walked on four pitches in the first, then singled in the third. Bonds took three straight balls in the fifth—and Kinney was booed loudly on each— then fouled a pitch off before hitting the extra-special shot.
Fireworks went off and it was evident that this indeed was Bonds’ day. Even mayor Gavin Newsom, on hand to toss out the ceremonial first pitch, had a feeling this would be the day.
“That’s as good as it gets,” Giants rookie pitcher David Aardsma said. “I was watching a hero hit a monster home run.”
Bonds followed his homer with a bloop double to left in the seventh that landed between three fielders. He came around to score an insurance run. In the eighth, Bonds made a running backhanded catch on a drive by Lyle Overbay.
Bonds received his latest NL MVP award before the game from nine-time hockey MVP Wayne Gretzky and five-time NBA MVP Bill Russell.
“This is a great honor to have Wayne and Bill here. I watched their careers,” Bonds said. “To be honored up here with them is a great honor myself.”
And Bonds was greeted by a nice ovation from the home crowd when he was introduced before the game in a special ceremony. A few boos were sprinkled in, but for the most part this crowd seemed to support him despite the constant questions about whether he’s boosted his career with banned substances.
“For most of us, he’s the best player we’ve ever seen,” Counsell said. “You are always amazed at him. It’s fun to watch him when he’s that good. You don’t like it because he beats you, but there’s no question there’s anappreciation.”
Milwaukee went 1-5 against San Francisco in 2003. … Injured Giants closer Robb Nen threw 25 pitches off the mound and probably will throw again Wednesday. … RHP ace Jason Schmidt, sidelined with shoulder soreness, threw a 15-minute bullpen session and is expected to pitch Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. … Larry Ellison, 53, of Fairfield, caught Bonds’ homer, but returned the ball to the slugger and got to meet the appreciative Bonds afterthe game.