Heliot Ramos

Ramos honors Mays with memorable home run at Rickwood Field

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- When Giants manager Bob Melvin showed up to Candlestick Park in 1986, he found his locker was right next to one reserved for Willie Mays, who was never shy about giving advice or reliving his playing days. One day, Melvin asked Mays how he hit so many home runs at Candlestick when the wind was so often blowing in from left field. Mays stood up and showed how he would tweak his swing. 

"When the wind blew in from left, I hit it out to right," he told Melvin.

As San Francisco prepared to honor Mays with a game at Rickwood Field, Melvin relayed that story to his players. That made their only big offensive outburst of a 6-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals stand out. 

The Giants fell behind early but tied it up in the third when Heliot Ramos hit a three-run homer to right. It was certainly noticed in the dugout that in a ballpark where Mays played as a teenager, the Giants' center fielder rode the elements and hit a homer to right. 

"Ramos took that to heart and did it today," right fielder Mike Yastrzemski said. "I think that was Willie speaking through him."

The blast was the 10th of the year for Ramos, who is the first Giant to reach double-digits even though he didn't make his season debut until May 8. He has driven in 35 runs in 39 games, a team-carrying stretch that has led Melvin to run out of superlatives. On Thursday, two days after San Francisco received the news that Mays had passed away at the age of 93, Melvin couldn't help but think of one of his childhood idols as he watched Ramos. 

"Any time you play center field for the San Francisco Giants you think about Willie Mays, and that's the kind of stuff that he does," Melvin said of Ramos. "We're down three and all of a sudden we're tied up with one swing of the bat. He's been doing that for a while now."

Many of Ramos' homers have been no-doubters, but when the breaking ball left his bat Thursday, he thought it was just a flyout to right. Ramos has shown to have the kind of power that allows balls to keep carrying and carrying, and on a clear 90-degree night in Birmingham, Rickwood Field seemed to play a bit small. 

"I saw it and thought I at least got the runners to second and third and we have a chance to score," Ramos said. "The ball went out and I was like, 'I'll take that, for sure.'"

The homer gave the Giants a fresh start, but they couldn't capitalize. Too often recently it's been Ramos-or-Bust, and that was the case against the Cardinals. They scored just one run after loading the bases in sixth and left two on in the ninth. 

Their hottest player came away with a memory to last a lifetime, though, and he said he got goosebumps while soaking up the history at Rickwood Field. 

"It was a super-special day," Ramos said. "I wish we won the game, but it is what it is."

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