Rodriguez To WFAN's Waldman: 'Nobody Will Ever Pass Willie Mays'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Alex Rodriguez passed Willie Mays for fourth place on the career homer list, connecting for No. 661 Thursday night an at-bat after he was robbed of the milestone drive by a leaping catch.

The New York Yankees star hit a liner off Baltimore’s Chris Tillman into a secure area just to the left of Monument Park in center field in the third inning. A-Rod sent a soaring shot in the first that Delmon Young caught by reaching over the top of the wall in right field.

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“I wish my father was here to see this moment,” A-Rod told WFAN’s Suzyn Waldman after the Yankees beat the Orioles 4-3. “I’ve told you many times, Willie Mays was his favorite player. I may have passed him in the charts, but nobody will ever pass Willie Mays. What he did on the field, what he did off the field at the time that he did it in, really created an open path for all of us to come out and do what we do. I love Willie Mays and he’s a great role model for all of us.”

Next up for Rodriguez: Babe Ruth at 714 home runs.

The Yankees, who said they will not pay a $6 million bonus after Rodriguez matched the Say Hey Kid on Friday in Boston, put a message on the main videoboard saying, “661 Home Runs. Alex Rodriguez just surpassed Willie Mays for sole possession of 4th place on baseball’s all-time home runs list.”

The slugger pumped his fist as he rounded first base, and fans gave Rodriguez, who didn’t play last year while serving a drug suspension, a standing ovation as he was greeted warmly in the dugout by his teammates.

“It’s a lot of fun to be part of,” said Brett Gardner, who pulled off Rodriguez’s helmet. “I know there’s a lot of questions surrounding everything. Still, 661 home runs is a lot.”

Mark Teixeira stayed out of the batter’s box as the cheers swelled. Rodriguez was encouraged by the Yankees to take a curtain call, and he said he looked to manager Joe Girardi for reassurance that it was OK. Then, ever so briefly, the three-time AL MVP jumped to the top step and thrust both hands above his head.

“When you’re productive you re-earn their respect and they pull for you,” Girardi said of the fans.

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A-Rod told Waldman that he thought his “curtain-call days were over.”

“I didn’t know what to expect from the fans,” he added during a postgame press conference. “I can tell you this, I wish I could go out — and I can’t — and thank every fan personally for not only the way they treated me tonight, but the way they’ve treated me all season. It’s certainly fueling the way I’m playing.”

Rodriguez, who turns 40 in July, moved into a tie for fourth in the AL this season with seven home runs.

Alex Rodriguez takes a curtain call after hitting his 661st career home run at Yankee Stadium on May 7, 2015. A-Rod passed Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time HRs list. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Alex Rodriguez takes a curtain call after hitting his 661st career home run at Yankee Stadium on May 7, 2015. A-Rod passed Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time HRs list. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Yankees and A-Rod have a marketing agreement that calls for $6 million each for up to five achievements, payable within 15 days of designation by the team. But New York has said the marketing possibilities were ruined after Rodriguez served his performance-enhancing drug penalty for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.

The accomplishments were contemplated to be homers 660, 714, 755 (Hank Aaron), 762 (Barry Bonds) and 763 as he moved up baseball’s list.

No payment likely would trigger a grievance on Rodriguez’s behalf by the players’ union. Without a settlement, the case would be heard by an arbitrator.

“That’s not where my mind is right now,” Rodriguez said. “I’m really just trying to enjoy this moment.”

“It’s been quite a journey here the last few years,” he added. “I promised myself that I would come out and enjoy every moment. The way the fans have allowed me to come back and play baseball, the way I repay them is by working hard, playing hard and trying to help our team win.”

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