Last night, Aug. 1, the San Francisco Giants completed a sweep of their arch-rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, which brought back memories of another Giants sweep of the Dodgers many years ago.

However, it was the next game, against the San Diego Padres, that lives on forever.

Giants manager Clyde King rested Willie Mays in the first game of a three-game series in San Diego on Sept. 22, 1969 following a successful home stand that ended with a sweep of the Dodgers.

At the end of six innings, the teams were tied with two runs each.

The Giants held a slim half-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the division that was referred to that season as the “Wild, Wild West.” King wanted the game.

Ron Hunt, the gutsy little second baseman, led off the Giants seventh with a slow roller to the left side. Padres shortstop Tommy Dean charged the ball and fired a strike to first, but Hunt beat it out.

King made his move. He sent the greatest of all Giants to the plate to bat for a young rookie outfielder named George Foster, who would have a 1977 season for the Cincinnati Reds in which he would hit 52 home runs.

Willie stepped into the batter’s box to face rookie right-hander Mike Corkins, whom the Giants had signed as an amateur free agent in 1965.

The Padres drafted Corkins in the expansion draft three years later, and now he was facing Willie Mays.

Everyone in the ballpark knew that Willie had 599 home runs. What might seem unbelievable is that there were only 4,779 paying customers in the ballpark.

Corkins went into the stretch, got the signal from his catcher, Chris Cannizzaro, checked Hunt at first, and delivered Willie Mays’ 600th home run, which won the game.

Don’t let the small crowd give the impression that there was a lack of excitement about Willie’s accomplishment.

Everyone connected with baseball marveled at Mays’ achievement..

Legendary baseball journalist Arthur Daley wrote: “When Willie stepped up to bat as a pinch-hitter…and smote a home run, he advanced to a new and spectacular plateau in baseball history.”

Willie Mays achieved what only Babe Ruth had achieved, and it cemented Willie as one of the great sluggers of all time.

There was excitement everywhere, especially in San Francisco, where for the first few years in his new home, Willie was viewed as New York’s, but that was no longer the case.

Willie told the media that the pressure was building up: “I was trying too hard to hit home runs.”

Since Willie became the second player to hit at least 600 home runs, Henry Aaron (755), Barry Bonds (762), Sammy Sosa (609), and Ken Griffey Jr. (630) have joined the club.

Presently, Alex Rodriguez is stuck at 599 home runs.

The contrast between the indifference to Rodriguez’ pursuit of his 600th home run and the excitement, respect, and love with respect to Willie’s quest for his 600th home run is striking.

Teammates, Giants fans, and most baseball fans loved Willie Mays. Opponents respected and feared him. All marveled his great skills, and all appreciated his great accomplishments.

The same cannot be said with respect to Alex Rodriguez. As a wise woman once said, “No one can hurt you as much as you can hurt yourself.”


Willie Mays’ 600th Home Run at Retrosheet

No. 600 Is One Ruthian Home Run for Willie Mays: Giants’ Star, at 38, Is 2d on List and Richer, Wiser. (1969, September 24). New York Times (1923-Current file), 39. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2006). (Document ID: 88865325).

By ARTHUR DALEY. (1969, October 1). Sports of Times: An Epic Home Run. New York Times (1923-Current file), 50. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2006). (Document ID: 81992636).

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