Nine seasons later, entering this July, he had 515 homers and 2,231 hits. So he hasn't exactly disappeared. But a siege of injuries denies him a realistic shot -- the same, if less heroic, way patriotism denied Ted Williams.Teddy Ballgame would have been the charter 500/3,000 member if not for World War II and the Korean War. Around five years of military service, Williams collected 521 homers and 2,654 hits -- two mediocre seasons shy of the other magic number. Had he been matching a standard, not setting it, Mays might have had a different view of it in that 1996 interview, when he said the media "sometimes make a big issue out of things that have already been done." Presumably, Mays would also soften his stance if Godson Barry Bonds were about to join him in 500/3,000 -- something, alas, we aren't likely to see. Which is a convenient segue into our 10 500/3,000 nominees, in ascending order of likelihood. 10. Barry Bonds, 40
Career (through June 30): 703 - 2,730 Even if he eventually gets his knees in swinging shape ... even if he rediscovers the passion for the game ... even if the 755 carrot draws him back -- unless all of a sudden everyone starts pitching to him, it'd take him three more seasons to get there. Not gonna happen. 9. Ken Griffey Jr., 35
515 - 2,231 The rose-colored view is that, having played only 206 games in 2002-2004, he has avoided a lot of routine wear-and-tear and has got a lot of game left. At his typical late '90s pace, he would get there in four years. 8. Alex Rodriguez, 29
401 - 1,803 Another reason for some of his peers to resent him? He could make it, quite easily, if he wished. But chances are he won't play the game long enough -- especially if the Yanks help him get that ring before his contract expires in 2010. He then won't sign another contract -- certainly not to chase some numbers. Says so himself: "The temptation is to look too far ahead. I don't think I would play just to get records or something. Let's just see how it goes from here." 7. Manny Ramirez, 33
409 - 1,835 His ferocious power has always overshadowed the fact he is just a pure hitter, with a career average well above .300. But only if he starts putting the ball in play more often -- between walks and strikeouts, he doesn't make contact 200-plus times a year. 6. Todd Helton, 31
257 - 1,442 His current slump notwithstanding, he is setting a sizzling pace in Colorado -- but sizzling enough to overcome a late start? He played his first game at 24, significantly later than Mays (20), Aaron (20), Murray (21) and Palmeiro (21). 5. Miguel Cabrera, 22
60 - 359 The ultimate projection, obviously. But the history of those who reached the Majors at 20 and produced immediately is quite brilliant. 4. Miguel Tejada, 29
209 - 1,269 His consistent improvement has brought him to a level that, if sustained, makes him a genuine threat. But playing a physically demanding defensive position in ironman mode makes him a burnout candidate, too. 3. Vladimir Guerrero, 29
286 - 1,500 He is never cheated, has never met a pitch he didn't like or one that he couldn't reach -- he is a throwback marvel with barely two strikeouts for every home run (for a random contrast, Rodriguez has paid for his bombs with 1,182 strikeouts). He started at 20, which sets him up well. 2. Andruw Jones, 28
275 - 1,335 He has been a little too slump-prone. But, as he served a recent reminder, he can get in a zone that knows no end. He also brings speed to the party, giving him those leg-hits that can make a dramatic difference across a career. And by any yardstick, he is just entering his prime. 1. Albert Pujols, 25
180 - 888 What a model of consistency. Through his first four full seasons, Prince Albert not only averaged 40 homers, but 197 hits -- but virtually hit those marks every year! At those rates, he would reach 500/3,000 early in his 16th season, in 2016 -- when he would be only 36 years old.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.