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Simmons recalls the calls
04/05/2004  1:36 AM ET
Lon Simmons has told more Willie Mays homers goodbye than anybody around, and has done the same with quite a few of Barry Bonds' as well.

With Bonds and his godfather Mays meeting at the magical 660 mark in homers in 2004, Simmons is taking his "Tell it goodbye!" call and the rest of his four-plus decades of broadcasting excellence to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where he'll be enshrined this summer as the 29th winner of the Ford C. Frick Award.

Perhaps no one else has had the privilege of witnessing more of the Mays-Bonds power display in San Francisco than Simmons, and certainly no one has done so with the same insight. Simmons shares a great friendship with Mays to this day and was very close to Bobby Bonds while a certain young hitter named Barry was growing up.

Simmons admits he's partial to his pal Willie, but he knows 660 and the passing of a torch from godfather to godson is inevitable.

"I hate to see it go in a way, only because Willie is as close to me as he is," Simmons said from his Maui home. "I don't know if Willie feels the same way, and I haven't heard him say it, but I have to think if it had to be anybody doing it, Barry Bonds is the one person he'd like to see do it."

Simmons retired after the 2002 season and spent the early years of the Bonds era in San Francisco across the bay broadcasting A's games. So most of his experience of telling homers goodbye relates to Mays, who hit 459 of his homers in a San Francisco Giants uniform, and while we're at it many of Willie McCovey's 469 of a total of 521 homers.

"I still consider Willie the greatest player I've ever seen, but the last few years I've come to the conclusion that Barry is equal with any hitter I've ever seen."
-- Lon Simmons

Simmons called Mays' 600th, Hank Aaron's 600th and was on hand in San Francisco though not on the air when Bonds became the fourth member of the 600 Homer Club on Aug. 9, 2002.

His best advice for Giants broadcasters Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper, and whoever else might call the 660th and 661st homers for Bonds is simple: Let the moment dictate the call.

"You're looking forward to it, so it's something that's on your mind quite a bit," Simmons said from his Maui home. "But you have to just let the emotion take you. I didn't prepare myself or write anything down to say. I've always thought it was obvious to the listener that you'd done something like that."

Simmons is among those who strongly believe that Mays would have gone well beyond 660 and beyond Babe Ruth's 714 if he had played home games anywhere else but Candlestick Park, Mays' home field for 13 of his 23 seasons in the Majors.

He also hasn't been convinced that the godson has surpassed the godfather in overall level of performance in his baseball career.

"I still consider Willie the greatest player I've ever seen, but the last few years I've come to the conclusion that Barry is equal with any hitter I've ever seen," Simmons said.

That's the call from a Hall of Fame broadcaster who knows what it means to tell it goodbye, over and over again.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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