William Howard Mays, Jr.
More commonly known as the Willie Mays, and is widely thought to be the best all around player of all time. That's over 32 clubs, and 150 years of organized baseball. Imagine how many players over 150 years (or more) of baseball that excludes.
Our very own 'Say Hey Kid' is not only the best Giants player of all time, but as I said, probably the best in all of baseball, for all time.
Born on May 6, 1931 Westfield Alabama, Willie Mays learned the game of baseball at an early age from his father. The love and inspiration Willie grew for the game watching his father play in the Negro leagues would soon yield a star among stars.
As a young man, Mays played in the Negro Leagues himself. Being scouted while with Birmingham Black Barons, Mays was signed in 1950 to the New York Giants.
Rolling through the minor leagues with the Giants, Mays got his first start in 1951. It was an auspicious being to his storied career, going 0-12.
His 13th at bat? A home run off of none other than Warren Spahn. His numbers over that season improved, and by the end of 1951 Mays won his first Major League accolade, Rookie of the Year.
In 1952 Mays was drafted by the Army. Many thought he was destined for the conflict in Korea, and feared this would end a bright future. Thankfully Mays spent his military career on a base in Virginia.
Mays returned to baseball in 1954. A special year for the Giants. His MVP season saw him bat .345 and hit 41 home runs. His over-the-shoulder catch in Game 1 of the World Series off the bat of Vic Wertz is an iconic image in baseball. Mays later scored the winning run in that game, and the Giants went on to sweep the Indians.
He batted right, threw right, and was probably the best outfielder in the game for many of his years with the Giants.
Over the next 22 years Mays would electrify baseball with his amazing talent. Mays made everything look easy, but there is nothing easy about these feats:
- 24 All-Star Appearances
- World Series Championship 1954
- 12 Gold Gloves
- 1951 Rookie of the Year
- 2-time NL MVP
- Roberto Clemente Award 1971
- The first and only Giant to hit four home runs in a single game
- 660 career home runs
- Career .302 batting average
- 3,283 hits
- 7095 putouts tops the list for outfielders
And the thing about Willie, he made it look easy, routine almost. Never before was there such a athlete gifted and suited for the game of baseball.
Willie Mays is still among us today, and can be seen at the park from time to time. Oh and say hey—that park's address: 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco Ca. Home of the Giants.
Willie's number, No. 24, is retired and hangs in the park today.