Oct. 1, 2001
By ROB GLOSTER
AP Sports Writer
SAN FRANCISCO - Willie Mays was in the twilight of his remarkable career in 1969 when a Giants teammate started bringing his 5-year-old son to games.
The teammate was Bobby Bonds, and the youngster was named Barry.
"He was in my locker all the time. His mother, Pat, would drop him off. He would go in the outfield with me and mess around," Mays remembers. "He's been around baseball people all his life, so he had to learn something."
That little kid, now one home run from tying the single-season record, has become perhaps the best ballplayer of his generation. Yet he's still trying to live up to his pedigree.
His father was a three-time All-Star. His godfather, Mays, has been called the greatest player in baseball history. Reggie Jackson, a distant cousin, is a Hall of Famer.
After hitting his 69th homer this weekend, tying Jackson for seventh place on the career list with 563, the younger Bonds was asked whether it felt good to have family bragging rights.
"I don't have them yet," he said.
Bonds' bid to break the home run record of 70 set by Mark McGwire three seasons ago is one of many dramatic story lines during the final week of the regular season - originally scheduled to end this past Sunday, but extended to make up games postponed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks:
- All four NL playoff spots are still open, with Atlanta, Houston and Arizona trying to hold on to division leads - and Bonds' Giants still in the running.
- Rickey Henderson, like Bonds, can make history. He needs two runs to break Ty Cobb's record of 2,245, set in 1928, and is three hits shy of No. 3,000.
- Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn close out their Hall of Fame careers at home. Ripken takes his farewell bow Saturday night at Camden Yards, and Gwynn winds up Sunday at San Diego.
Bonds' quest moves to Houston and homer-friendly Enron Field, where the Giants begin a three-game series Tuesday night against the Astros. San Francisco then returns home to finish the regular season with three games against Los Angeles.
Bonds has had to be great just to keep up with his relatives. Mays was the first man to hit more than 300 homers and steal more than 300 bases. Bobby Bonds was the second.
Barry eclipsed them, becoming baseball's first 400-400 man. He now has 563 homers and 484 stolen bases.
"I'm just blessed. My father is a gifted athlete. I get a lot of information from someone who I consider one of the best all-around baseball players, Willie Mays," he said. "So I'm constantly being reminded on what I need to do, how to have patience, how to prepare myself. I constantly have instructors around me."
Bobby and Barry are the only men in baseball history with more than three seasons of 30 homers and 30 steals, each has done it five times. Barry is one of just three players - with Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez - with 40 homers and 40 steals in a season.
Barry Bonds, a three-time NL MVP and 10-time All-Star, is having one of the greatest seasons ever by a major league hitter.
He is batting .320 with a career-high 132 RBIs. He is within three walks of tying the record of 170 set by Babe Ruth in 1927. His on-base percentage is .505, which would match John McGraw's mark set in 1900 for the 13th best in history.
And Bonds' slugging percentage stands at .84632, which would be the second-best in major league history. Ruth's record of .84716 was set in 1920, and the Bambino had a mark of .84629 in 1921.
Of Bonds' 148 hits this season, 103 have been for extra bases. He has homered in 58 of his 147 games this year, or nearly 40 percent.
"I feel kind of proud that a kid I knew as a 5-year-old can do these things no one else can do," Mays said. "I'd like to feel I was a part of whatever he learned. But I don't know what he learned from me."