Willie Mays is the greatest baseball player of all time, as declared by every other great player in baseball history who saw him on the field. I never got the chance to see him in person, and I’d venture that a lot of you didn’t, either. He’s one of the few players from the past whose feats we can believe through the reverent tones of those telling us about them because they’re almost too incredible to be true, which makes them better than a tall tale.
He’s been a massive part of the Giants’ public outreach in this AT&T Park era and he’s been an extraordinary part of the culture and excitement that’s built up around the team this century. Bonds had the hits, the team won rings, but none of it would’ve carried as much weight without Willie’s presence. His value as a living legend is impossible to measure. Yet, because a lot of us never got to see him play, how can we properly put into context his true greatness?
In order to do that, I think we have to phrase his accomplishments in a way that conforms to our modern sensibilities. Willie Mays owned the trolls.
The first horrible "Willie Mays is overrated" take came on May 28, 1951, from Whitney Martin of the AP, who sadly was two generations too young for his rightful place on ESPN's "First Take."#HappyBirthdayWillieMays pic.twitter.com/RGltHtaZBX— Peter Hartlaub (@peterhartlaub) May 6, 2018
Seriously, for anyone who thinks all the garbage sports takes were confined to the 21st Century: Here's a story writing off WIllie Mays after just six days in the major leagues.#HappyBirthdayWillieMays pic.twitter.com/P7I34ETDTB— Peter Hartlaub (@peterhartlaub) May 6, 2018
The ultimate troll move is to refer to him as “Will Mays” in the headline and then Willie Mays in the article proper. The ultimate counter to the trolls is to be the greatest baseball player of all time. Willie Mays has lit up every room he’s ever been in and, apparently, every troll who’s ever tried to tear him down, too.