SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -First Joe Montana appeared on the video board, congratulating Barry Bonds and wishing him well on his chase of Hank Aaron's record.
Then came messages from Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Muhammad Ali - a remarkable collection of some of the greatest living athletes in a variety of sports.
The big question now is, who will the San Francisco Giants get to congratulate Bonds when he hits home run No. 756 to break Aaron's career mark.
It's a guessing game that's become the talk of the clubhouse in recent days. Could it be Tiger Woods? How about Willie Mays?
``It's got to be ... there's only two choices it could be ... I will say ... I'm thinking either Cal Ripken or Tiger,'' Giants outfielder Dave Roberts said, pausing to think about it as he talked. ``Cal just got into the Hall of Fame and has a record. Tiger's just Tiger. He's hot, he's now. And Willie's another one.''
Manager Bruce Bochy said everyone in the dugout was guessing who would give the message Monday night to honor Bonds. Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez were mentioned as possibilities, but no one thought of Ali.
The Giants won't say what's in store for Bonds when he breaks the record, saying only there's one final tribute to be played. And the guessing game has begun.
``I was trying to figure that out myself,'' outfielder Randy Winn said. ``Once they put it on, you wonder who it's going to be. I think it's going to be a baseball player. Or, it could be a soccer player like Pele. Maybe Willie Mays, but I like a golfer, too.''
First baseman Ryan Klesko speculated that it could be President Bush - an unlikely choice in liberal San Francisco - or maybe even Aaron, who has stayed away from Bonds' chase.
``Maybe,'' Klesko said of Aaron. ``He may shock the world.''
The first message came from Montana, the Hall of Fame quarterback who led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl titles. When the Giants returned home for their first game after Bonds hit his 753rd homer on July 23, Montana's message was played.
``Hey Barry, Joe Montana here. Congratulations on a great career and good luck on the road to history, and remember don't just break that record, give 'em a number that no one will reach,'' he said.
Next up in this batting order for the ages was Jordan, the NBA great who is one of the most recognized athletes in the world. On the night Bonds hit homer No. 754, Jordan's message was played.
``Hey Barry, it's Michael Jordan,'' he said. ``I just want to congratulate you on your historic event. I'm very happy for you. Ever since the first day I saw you in the batting cage, you've been working toward this for a long period of time. So I want to wish you and Elizabeth and that beautiful girl of yours congratulations. I'm very happy for you.''
Bonds was then greeted the next night with a pregame message from Gretzky, the greatest hockey player ever.
``Hey Barry, Wayne Gretzky here,'' he said. ``On behalf of my wife and kids we want to congratulate you on a job well done, but remember don't stop there and we'll be rooting for you as you chase down history.''
Then when Bonds returned home Monday night for the first time since tying Aaron's mark on Saturday in San Diego, it was boxing legend Ali and his son Asaad.
``Hey Barry, this is Asaad, I'm here with my father, Muhammad,'' Asaad said. ``We want to congratulate you on hitting 755 home runs, it's been a great milestone. We've both been great fans of yours throughout your career. We just want to wish you good luck on your road to history. Don't stop.''
---
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.
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