Third Place All Alone

April 13, 2004

By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer

SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds outdid his godfather - and he has just twomore hitters to chase.

Bonds hit his 661st homer Tuesday night, passing Willie Mays to take solepossession of third place on baseball's career list.

In the seventh inning, Bonds hit a 1-2 pitch from Milwaukee right-hander BenFord over the right-field arcade and into McCovey Cove, reaching the water forthe second straight day. The San Francisco slugger hit his 660th on Monday tonearly the same spot.

Only Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron still loom above Bonds. If Bonds maintains hisunbelievable pace of the past four seasons, he could pass Ruth's 714 homersearly next season.

Bonds has said he can't imagine passing Aaron, who hit 755 homers. But thereseems to be nothing Bonds can't do.

'I've never seen a better player in my life,' said former Giants thirdbaseman Matt Williams, who threw out the first pitch at Tuesday night's game.'I don't think anybody changes the course of a game like he does.'

Bonds, who will turn 40 in July, hit 213 homers in the previous fourseasons, including a major league-record 73 in 2001.

He hit his 659th on opening day in Houston - but as he usually does, Bondswaited until returning home to San Francisco to hit his most historic homers.

Bonds didn't really celebrate his 661st, calmly dropping his bat andcircling the bases as the sellout crowd stood and roared. After touching homeplate, he pointed into the stands at his family.

Bonds took a short curtain call, and he got yet another standing ovationwhen he took the field for the eighth inning.

It was Bonds' 29th homer into McCovey Cove - where the ball apparently wasretrieved by the same kayaker who got Bonds' 660th and later gave it back tothe slugger.

The park didn't have quite the same buzz as it did Monday night, when Bondssmashed a fifth-inning homer into McCovey Cove. The media contingent wasroughly halved, and sports legends Wayne Gretzky and Bill Russell weren't inattendance, as they were Monday night to celebrate Bonds' sixth straight MVPaward.

Bonds' latest statistical marvel has been accomplished under the shadow ofsteroids and the criminal investigation surrounding his personal trainer. EvenWilliams, Bonds' teammate in San Francisco for three seasons, believes thesteroids controversy has given baseball 'a black eye.'

'I know him as a man. Not many people do,' Williams said. 'If it'sproven, then I think it's going to put a black mark on baseball. Will I thinkany less of him? No. You can be as strong as you want to be. You still have tohave that proper technique. That can't be taken away.'

Bonds' transformation from a five-tools leadoff hitter to his generation'sbest power hitter has pleased manager Felipe Alou, who saw a similar change inthe other greats atop the homers list.

'He's doing what most guys did,' Alou said. 'He used to steal bases. He'sstopped running bases. That's what Hank did. There comes a time when age(catches up), and you've got to do one thing: hit the ball out of theballpark.'

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