10/20/2002 9:29 pm ET
Mays at World Series for Bonds
By Josh Rawitch / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Just a few feet from the entrance to the visitor's clubhouse at Edison International Field, an elderly man in a baseball cap joined Giants broadcaster Jon Miller as they sifted through an old yearbook. The man did not have a World Series credential and he was trying to scrounge up a photo so that he could be identified wherever he went.
Miller's suggestion was one for the ages.
"Why don't they just cut out this picture of you?" he asked, pointing to the one where the center fielder makes an over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series. "Or they could just hang this whole thing around your neck."
Yes, the unidentified man was none other than Willie Mays and he was well aware that he did not need a pass to get around the stadium. He arrived Sunday afternoon after watching Game 1 from Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and plans to be at the rest of the World Series games.
"I promised him I would come," said Mays and it's obvious the "him" is Barry Bonds. "It's important to me to let him know that I'm here. Even if I don't go in the stands, he knows that I'm here and whatever he does, I'm watching and whatever he does wrong, we talk."
That includes Bonds' second at-bat in Game 1, where Mays believes the Giants' left fielder struck out swinging because he was nervous. But his first plate appearance resulted in a blast that the Hall of Famer believes completes Bonds' already accomplished career.
"When Barry hit the home run, that made a complete guy out of him," said Mays. "You've been hollering about him not getting into the World Series and now the first time he gets in, he hits a home run. ... He hit already in the postseason. He already hit three or four home runs, so hitting a home run in the World Series is like icing on the cake."
That's the same term Mays used to describe winning a championship. The real tough part, according to him, is getting to the Fall Classic.
"It's not all about winning," said Mays, who started wearing his 1954 World Series ring more often in an attempt to create an even stronger desire in Bonds. "Sometimes you want to win but it's hard to get in now. When I was playing, you could win your division and get into the World Series.
"Now it's so difficult to get in, you've got to go through the system. Three out of five, four out of seven and that's very difficult. Guys are tired after 162 games. ... I think it's harder now than it was when I played."
Bonds would probably agree. After five trips to the playoffs, he's finally getting a chance to play in the World Series.
"I don't know how you guys feel but to have him start smiling again and enjoying baseball, that's really what I'm all about," said Mays. "He's just beginning to realize that it's a game, but you can get a lot out of the game and he's understanding that much more now than he did five or 10 years ago.
"People have been saying he doesn't smile [but] I never smiled when I played ball. When you smile, you don't have time to worry about your opponents. ... I'm sure you guys have seen him in the last year or two make a big effort to change in his ways."
Mays speaks the truth. Since Bonds' historic march to the single-season home run record last season and his first-ever batting title this season, the slugger has been known to grin from time to time. Part of that stems from the presence of his son, Nikolai, who often serves as a batboy at Giants home games.
"We didn't have kids in the dugout," recalled Mays. "I think it's going to help Nikolai on down the line because now he's going to remember all these things. ... That's how Barry reflects and I think Nikolai is going to reflect on that down the line."
The memories will be many for the younger Bonds, whether or not his dad surpasses Hank Aaron's all-time mark of 755 career home runs. Mays has already come to grips with the fact that his own mark of 660 clouts will not hold up much longer, either.
"He's going to pass me in home runs," he said of Bonds, who is 47 homers shy of third place on the all-time list. "He's going to be the No. 1 Giant as far as home runs, but it doesn't change anything in my life. I played my 22 years and whatever I did, nothing can change. I can't change it.
"Now, he's done everything that's possible to do. If he wins, that's a little more icing on the cake for him. [Then] he can say to me, 'I won. You won.' You know how it is. He always throws that something to me. Maybe next year he'll try something else."
That is, if there is anything else left to try.
Josh Rawitch is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.