(Reuters) - Alex Rodriguez blasted the 661st home run of his career on Thursday to pass Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list.
The milestone blow came in the third inning of the New York Yankees’ 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
“The reaction was incredible,” Rodriguez told reporters. “I’ve said all along the league, the Yankees, the fans — no one owes me anything. I’m so grateful to be playing baseball and grateful to everybody.”
Rodriguez, who had tied Mays on 660 last week, now trails only Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762) in career home runs.
A-Rod’s climb to reach baseball’s greats has come amidst controversy and as he rounded the bases the scoreboard made just a brief acknowledgment of his feat. He was given a short curtain call by the home New York fans.
The 39-year-old was suspended for the whole of 2014 due to a doping violation.
Despite the criticism, Rodriguez has had the support of his team mates.
“I know there’s a lot of questions surrounding everything but 661 home runs is still a lot, it’s 650 more than I’ve got, I think,” said Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner.
“I see how hard Alex works every day, how much he loves to compete and I’m really happy for him.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford/Amlan Chakraborty