Ex-teammates recall Mays' 600th home run

Ex-teammates recall Mays' 600th home run

ATLANTA -- Life was much simpler 41 years ago when Willie Mays hit his 600th home run for the Giants.

Unlike Wednesday, when Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees reached the 600 level, there was no need for conjecture over performance-enhancing drug use or the significance of such a milestone.

When Mays went deep on Sept. 22, 1969, at San Diego to become the only player other than Babe Ruth to hit as many as 600 home runs, everybody could appreciate the feat.

"We all knew we were seeing history," said Jack Hiatt, the Giants' former Minor League director who was San Francisco's starting catcher that night. "We knew we were playing with probably the greatest player in baseball."

Placing 600 home runs in perspective, former Giants infielder Tito Fuentes said, "When I played, 500 was elite."

Mays went 21 at-bats between homer No. 599 and 600, which led to one of Hiatt's most vivid memories of that period. Frank Torre, Joe Torre's brother, was a sales representative for Adirondack -- the manufacturer of the bats Mays used at the time. Adirondack planned for Torre to give Mays a lavish trophy once he hit No. 600.

But due to Mays' power drought, Torre did more traveling than he anticipated. Meanwhile, at every stop, the trophy had to be removed from a crate, then carefully repackaged.

"That thing was monstrous," Hiatt recalled. "It had to be six feet tall."

Mays hit his milestone homer off Mike Corkins, an ex-Giants farmhand whom Fuentes remembered well.

"He hit me three times in one game," said Fuentes, who led off and played third base on Mays' big night. "He was good friends with Bobby Bonds. He wasn't throwing at me. He was wild. Besides, I wasn't going to charge the mound against that guy."

Corkins stood 6-foot-1 and weighed 190 pounds; Fuentes was 5-11, 175.