Every time I look at my pocketbook, I see Jackie Robinson.
I always enjoyed playing ball, and it didn't matter to me whether I played with white kids or black. I never understood why an issue was made of who I played with, and I never felt comfortable, when I grew up, telling other people how to act.
They invented the All-Star game for Willie Mays.
He would routinely do things you never saw anyone else do. He'd score from first base on a single. He'd take two bases on a pop-up. He'd throw somebody out at the plate on one bounce.
And the bigger the game, the better he played.
And the bigger the game, the better he played.
—Peter A. Magowan, Giants president
|The Say Hey Kid: Willie Mays, standing, wearing baseball uniform, with arm around shoulders of Roy Campanella, seated, in 1961. Campanella was a catcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1948 to 1958, when he was paralyzed in an automobile accident. |
Photo Credit: World Telegram & Sun photo by William C. Greene, 1961
Source: U.S. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Wertz worked the count to two balls and a strike before crushing Liddle's fourth pitch approximately 420 feet to deep center field. In many stadiums the hit would have been a home run and given the Indians a 5-2 lead. However, this was the spacious Polo Grounds, and Giants center fielder Willie Mays, who was playing in shallow center field, made an on-the-run over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track to make the out.
Having caught the ball, he [Mays] immediately spun and threw the ball, losing his hat in characteristic style. Doby, the runner on second, might have been able to score the go-ahead run had he tagged at the moment the ball was caught; but as it was, he ran when the ball was hit, and then had to scramble back to retag and only got as far as third base
|The Catch: Willie Mays, no. 24, drags in Vic Wertz's drive at the warning track in the 1954 World Series. It was on September 29, 1954, during Game 1 of the 1954 World Series between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians at the Polo Grounds in New York. It is one of the most famous catches in major league baseball history and an iconic sports photo.|
Source: The Catch
Willie Mays has described the throw as more important in a 2010 article in The New York Times:
“As I’m running, I’m thinking I’ve got to get this ball back to the infield because I’d scored many times from second base on balls like that,” Mays said.After more than two decades with the Giants, Mays was traded, and returned to New York. On May 11, 1972, the San Francisco Giants traded Mays to the New York Mets for Charlie Williams and $50,000. His last regular season game was on September 9, 1973.
The instant the ball settled in his glove, he planted his foot and propelled himself into a whirl, flinging the ball on a line to second base. He held the runner at third, and the Indians never scored. The Giants won in 10 innings.
His final hit was during the 1973 World Series, a 12th-inning single up the middle against the Oakland Athletics, which put the Mets ahead in a game they hung on to win. In that series, the final one and fourth one Mays would play, the New York Mets lost to the Oakland Athletics in seven games.
Post Playing Days
After hanging up his glove in 1973, Willie Mays remained for a time with the Mets organization, before becoming a public relations executive with Bally's Resorts and Colgate-Palmolive. In 1986, Willie Mays returned to the San Francisco Giants organization, where he serves as special assistant to the president of the club. In 1993 the Giants made this a lifetime appointment.
Mays married twice. He married Margherite Wendell Chapman (1926–2010) in 1956 in which they adopted Michael, who was born in 1959, and the couple divorced a few years later. In November 1971, Mays married Mae Louise Allen.
Mays was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility, gaining 409 of the 432 votes, or almost 95% of the votes cast. At his induction, it was said: "Willie Mays, the 'Say Hey Kid,' played with enthusiasm and exuberance while excelling in all phases of the game — hitting for average and power, fielding, throwing and base running." said the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
As to the claim of who was the greatest baseball player, Babe Ruth or Willie Mays, my response is that both were great and both served the interests of baseball when it was needed: Ruth as baseball's savior after the doldrums of a scandal, and Mays as the greatest and graceful all-around player of his time.
[Disclosure: some friends and I met and got Willie Mays' autograph in the early 1970s when he was with the New York Mets, and we were kids hanging around the Queen Elizabeth Hotel waiting for players to board the bus for the ballpark. He was gracious and spoke to us for a few minutes.]
The last word goes to another baseball great Sandy Koufax, hall-of-fame pitcher with the Brooklyn (and later Los Angeles) Dodgers, who said: "I can't believe that Babe Ruth was a better player than Willie Mays. Ruth is to baseball what Arnold Palmer is to golf. He got the game moving. But I can't believe he could run as well as Mays, and I can't believe he was any better an outfielder."