Earlier, Tim Kurkjian’s Twitter feed relayed some nice quotes about Willie Mays and his greatness, including:
Willie Mays led the league in steals four years in a row, averaging 33 homers in those years. His 40 steals in 1956 were the most in the NL since 1929. Frank Robinson once told me, “You can’t exaggerate how great he was.” #bestofalltim— Tim Kurkjian (@Kurkjian_ESPN) May 25, 2018
Mays won 12 Gold Gloves, most among center fielders, and they weren’t awarded until his fifth season. He won his last one at age 37. He is the first player to hit 50 home runs in a Gold Glove season. #bestofalltim— Tim Kurkjian (@Kurkjian_ESPN) May 25, 2018
Johnny Bench on Mays: “I was in awe of him. He spoke to me at the 1968 All-Star game. I couldn’t even speak for a short time.” HOF broadcaster Lon Simmons on Mays: “The fans expected a miracle from Willie every day. And he gave them a miracle every other day.” #bestofalltim— Tim Kurkjian (@Kurkjian_ESPN) May 25, 2018
MLB’s Cut4 has a nice story recounting the events surrounding his call-up.
Young Mays, who was at a movie theater when the Giants officially called him up, hurried to the airport in Omaha, Neb., where this snapshot was taken:
There’s also this:
That’s a 92.6 bWAR Hall of Famer giving up a home run to a 156.4 bWAR Hall of Famer.
And, finally, this:
This last one actually has nothing to do with the anniversary of Willie Mays’ debut, but I like the design and how of its time it is and for the picture itself, which perfectly portrays the design as being of its time.
Since I never got to see Willie Mays play in person, I have to take everyone else’s word that he was the greatest to ever play the game. Thing is, most people whose opinions I trust make or support this declaration every single time it comes up, and it often feels like a consensus unless you’re from “back east”.
My strongest Willie Mays memory at this very moment involves, sadly, the San Francisco 49ers. I went to the last game at Candlestick and he was there, outside on the field, as part of one of the ceremonies. It was a night game. It was Candlestick Park. It was cold and windy. I gasped when I saw him out there. He could get pneumonia! Why would you expose Willie Mays to Candlestick Park winds?!
Beyond that, he was still a decent player in his forties. From ages 40-42 (1971-1973), he played in 290 games and hit 32 home runs, posting an .818 OPS (133 OPS+). Now, his age-40 season is doing most of the heavy lifting here, but it’s still remarkable to consider just how well he played, given the era. in the 1970s, there was no clean water and no clean air and everybody wore corduroy. Forty year olds then were the health equivalent of our 50-somethings. It was a wild time, but Willie Mays was always bigger and better than the moment.
What are your memories of the Say Hey Kid? What stands out to you about him?