Say, hey, there is ring of truth in crown Mays eyes for Bonds

October 21, 2002|By LAURA VECSEY

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Willie Mays was standing outside the visitors' clubhouse, holding court, when Barry Bonds flung the door open and saw him.

"Say, hey! You show up and cause havoc around here. Let's get out of here, man," Bonds said, wrapping Mays up in a bearhug.

But Mays did not follow Bonds out to the field. Whereas his godson is reluctant to expand the horizons of Bonds' still-evolving legend, Mays was willing. So he took the 1954 World Series ring off his finger and held it up for the camera. A flash lit it up in the dark tunnel. The ring was not that big, not that gaudy. Still, the treasured piece of jewelry with the Giants logo on it does the trick:

For eternity and beyond, Mays has affirmation of a stellar career, undeniable, in gold and a diamond.

"Except nowadays, the diamonds are a lot bigger," Mays said, older, but still smiling, cajoling, a star.

Say hey, Willie? You better believe it. The Hall of Fame center fielder was at Edison International Field last night. Why? A certain rooting interest, you might say.

Plus, Mays had a few things to say about his famous godson -- another slugger whose 17-year major-league career has cried out for the exact affirmation Mays earned 48 years ago.

So far, it's Tim Salmon and not Barry Bonds who has created a monstrously dramatic World Series moment.

Time will tell how Salmon's eighth-inning, tie-busting game-winner for Anaheim in Game 2 last night stands the test of time. In fact, with this knotted Series headed to San Francisco, it should take about one week to see if the Angels' 11-9 comeback win, thanks to Salmon's two-run blast, was a turning point.

Not that Bonds didn't do his part to serve notice that he is still the most dangerous hitter in this World Series -- at least when someone dares throw him a strike.

In the top of the ninth, with two outs and trailing by two, Angels manager Mike Scioscia figured how much could Bonds hurt them, even if he clobbered a homer? So Scioscia allowed closer Troy Percival to throw to Bonds. What did the greatest living slugger do? He launched a crushing homer into the upper deck in right-center field.

"I wanted Percy to challenge him. We had a two-run lead. That was the farthest ball I've ever seen hit here. That was awesome. As an opposing player, you just turn into a fan. Just hope he doesn't hurt us," Salmon said.

Winning or losing this World Series won't necessarily alter what Bonds has already done. The left fielder has the single-season home run record locked up. He's got his fifth National League MVP in the mail. With 613 career homers, he's fourth on the all-time list. And at age 38, pumped up with muscles that defy the old-world way in which his godfather and father, Bobby Bonds played, Bonds is in the kind of shape that allows him to set sights - however ambivalently-- on the man directly ahead of him.

That would be Mays, who finished with 660.

"He always feels he doesn't want to do it, but I say you've got to do what you've got to do. I'm sure he's going to do it. It don't change nothing. I'm me and he's he," Mays said.

Mays was in the house to profess that above everything else, the ring is the thing.

"It would put the icing on the cake. I won one in 1954 and I played in four, so that would put him with me," Mays said.

Last night quickly turned into another slugfest between the Giants and the Angels. It looked as if everyone else except Bonds was going to launch long balls into the southern California air.

With the Angels leading 5-0 after the first, Giants right fielder Reggie Sanders hit a three-run blast in the second inning. David Bell followed with a bases-empty shot. In the third, Jeff Kent drilled one into the seats down the left-field line, cutting the Angels' lead to 7-5.

Still, in the middle of all that action, there was the game within the game. That would be Bonds and the anticipation over whether he would get a chance to make a crushing difference.

After Game 1, when Bonds crunched a shot 418 feet during his first-ever World Series at-bat, he set a tone. So in the second inning last night, the camera bulbs flashed wildly as Bonds stepped into the batter's box for his first at-bat of the game.

All eyes and instamatic apertures were on Bonds because, as Mays said, his Game 1 homer had been important. It served notice on his quick-strike prowess and gave Bonds confidence that he might see pitches.

"When I saw [the homer in Game 1], I thought that was a load off his back. He looked surprised. He hit it a long way," Mays said, adding: "What else can they say about him [now]? If they put him No. 1 or Babe Ruth, all that matters is that he enjoy himself."

The truth is, Bonds may not get another chance to instantaneously alter the outcome of any of these remaining World Series games. By the fifth inning last night, Bonds had drawn his third walk of the game.

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