Say, hey, there's ring of truth to Mays' hopes

October 21, 2002|By LAURA VECSEY

ANAHEIM, Calif. - The clubhouse door flew open, and Barry Bonds immediately recognized the older man holding court. Bonds smiled and wrapped his arms around Willie Mays' shoulders.

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

Mays smiled and let Bonds bearhug him, but he didn't follow Bonds out to the field. Whereas Bonds is reluctant to banter and expand the horizons of his ever-growing legend, Mays was willing.

After Bonds escaped another media gaggle, sauntering off to the field, Mays did what had to be done. 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," said Mays, older, but still smiling, cajoling, a star.

Say hey, Willie? You better believe it. The Hall of Fame center fielder whose name resonates as one of the greatest to ever play the game, Mays 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.

Winning this World Series won't alter what Bonds has done. The Giants left fielder has the single-season home run record locked up. He has his fifth National League MVP in the mail. With 613 career homers, he's fourth all time. 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, Game 2 of this World Series turned into another slugfest between the Giants and Anaheim Angels. It looked as if everyone else except Bonds was going to launch long balls into the Southern California air.

Reggie Sanders hit a three-run blast for the Giants 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.

Still, in the middle of all that action, there was the game within the game. That would be Bonds and pitches thrown to him, good, bad but never indifferent.

After Game 1, when Bonds crunched a homer 418 feet during his first World Series at-bat, he set a tone. So last night, the camera bulbs flashed wildly as Bonds stepped into the batter's box to lead off the second inning.

All eyes and Instamatic apertures were on Bonds. So what if the rabidly excited fans at Edison Field booed Bonds? Their light show of camera flashes told the story of unabashed anticipation of his home run prowess.

Mays said the Game 1 homer was important.

"When I saw it, I thought that was a load off his back. He looked surprised. He hit it a long way. I think he admired it, so the second time up he looked nervous and he struck out, like he might have thought about it," Mays said.

"But what else can they say about him [now]? If they want to put him No. 1 or Babe Ruth, all that matters is that he enjoy himself. I think in the last four or five years he's done that. I think when he hit 73 home runs he enjoyed himself. I think he was surprised. Everyone else was, too."

The truth is, Bonds may not get another chance at a homer again this World Series. In the fifth inning, he drew his third walk of the night with the Giants trailing 7-5 and shortstop Rich Aurilia on second. It didn't quite work for the Angels when Bonds scored the tying run on J.T. Snow's two-run double. The Giants then went ahead 9-7 on RBI singles from Bell and Shawon Dunston.

Mays predicted it would come to this. He said Angels manager Mike Scioscia was going to alter his plan about letting Angels pitchers come after Bonds. That's why it's unlikely Bonds is going to have a World Series moment like the one his godfather etched into baseball's collective memory banks.

The Catch? It's one of the plays featured in a 30 Greatest Moments contest, the results of which will be revealed before Game 4 Wednesday at Pac Bell Park. During the '54 Series, in the eighth inning of a 2-2 tie with two runners on for Cleveland in Game 1, Mays made his over-the-shoulder catch on Vic Wertz's 460-foot smash.

"People talk about that to this day. I ask them, `Is that the only thing I ever did?' No, but it was in the World Series. That's why questions are asked about [Bonds]. That catch wasn't my best catch. I caught many that were better than that, but it was in the World Series," Mays said.

For Bonds, who always listens to Willie Mays, godfather knows best.

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