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Giants' Wall of Fame welcomes Bonds

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Leave it to Willie Mays to come up with one of the more memorable remarks about Barry Bonds during the Giants' Wall of Fame plaque unveiling that honored baseball's all-time home run hitter Saturday.

Mays recalled days at Candlestick Park in the 1960s and early '70s when young Barry tagged along with his father, Giants right fielder Bobby Bonds.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Leave it to Willie Mays to come up with one of the more memorable remarks about Barry Bonds during the Giants' Wall of Fame plaque unveiling that honored baseball's all-time home run hitter Saturday.

Mays recalled days at Candlestick Park in the 1960s and early '70s when young Barry tagged along with his father, Giants right fielder Bobby Bonds.

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"He was one of those kids who, if you gave him love, he'd give it back to you twice," said Mays, the legendary center fielder who's also Barry Bonds' godfather.

Those who recall Bonds' episodes of surliness might beg to differ. But no discouraging words were heard as hundreds of fans and a who's who of franchise personalities gathered on King Street to celebrate Bonds' addition to the club's Wall of Fame.

Video: Barry Bonds plaque unveiled on Giants Wall of Fame

Larry Baer, the Giants' president and CEO, and Peter Magowan, the man leading the club when Bonds was signed as a free agent during the 1992-93 offseason, both praised Bonds for helping solidify the franchise in the wake of the team's near-departure to Tampa-St. Petersburg.

Magowan said the "aha" moment when the Giants decided to pursue Bonds resulted from a series of conversations about restoring the Giants' legacy and showing fans that they wanted an immediate winner.

Giants from various generations marveled over Bonds' skill. Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey said for the longest time he considered Ted Williams the finest hitter of all time. But now, McCovey believes, "the greatest hitter who ever lived was No. 25."

Left-hander Kirk Rueter said Bonds' mere appearance in the clubhouse on the days he pitched "always gave me the belief that I would win."

Video: MIA@SF: Bonds throws first pitch on ceremonial night

In a separate interview with reporters, Bonds, who also threw out the first pitch before the Giants' game vs. the Marlins with son Nikolai catching, expressed eagerness to see his jersey number retired. In that way, he said, he could match the peerless Mays and ennoble his talented father, who began his professional career in the Giants organization and spent his first seven years in the Majors with San Francisco while wearing No. 25 and making two All-Star teams.

Bonds, 52, became the 49th Giant to be immortalized on the Wall of Fame. The honor is reserved for players who spent at least nine years with the ballclub, or five years with at least one All-Star selection.

Bonds currently serves the Giants as a special advisor to Baer.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants