Daily Almanac for Thursday, May 6, 2021: Willie Mays, “The Say Hey Kid” turns 90 today!

Willie Mays in 1965 with the SF Giants. Photo by Jay Publishing via tradingcarddb.com, Public Domain, https commons.wikimedia.org
Willie Mays, The Catch, Centerfielder hauls in Vic Wertz’s drive near the wall in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. Fair use, https en.wikipedia.org


Willie Howard Mays Jr. (born May 6, 1931), nicknamed “The Say Hey Kid“, is an American former professional baseball center fielder. He spent almost all of his 22-season Major League Baseball (MLB) career playing for the New York/San Francisco Giants (1951–1952, 1954–1972) before finishing his career with the New York Mets (1972–1973). Regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.

Mays joined the Birmingham Black Barons in 1948, playing with them until he was signed by the Giants once he graduated high school in 1950. He won the Rookie of the Year Award, spent two years in the United States Army during the Korean War, and won the National League (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award after leading the NL in batting with a .345 batting average in 1954. His over-the-shoulder catch of a Vic Wertz fly ball in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series is one of the most famous baseball plays of all time. The Giants swept the Cleveland Indians, the lone World Series triumph of Mays’s career.

Mays led the NL with 51 home runs in 1955. In 1956, he stole 40 bases, leading the NL for the first of four straight years. He won his first of 12 Gold Glove Awards in 1957, a record for outfielders. The Giants moved to San Francisco after the 1957 season, and Mays contended for the batting title until the final day of 1958, hitting a career-high .347. He batted over .300 for the next two seasons, leading the league in hits in 1960. After leading the NL with 129 runs scored in 1961, Mays led the NL in home runs in 1962 as the Giants won the NL pennant and faced the New York Yankees in the World Series, which the Giants lost in seven games. By 1963, Mays was making over $100,000 a year. In 1964, he was named the captain of the Giants by manager Alvin Dark, leading the NL with 47 home runs that year. He hit 52 the next year, leading the NL and winning his second MVP award. 1966 was the last of 10 seasons in which he had over 100 runs batted in. In 1969, he hit the 600th home run of his career, and he got his 3,000th hit in 1970. Traded to the Mets in 1972, Mays spent the rest of that season and 1973 with them before retiring. He served as a coach for the Mets until 1979 and later rejoined the Giants as a Special Assistant to the President and General Manager.

Mays finished his career batting .302 with 660 home runs, the sixth-most of all time, and 1,903 RBI. He holds MLB records for most putouts (7,095) and most extra-inning home runs (22). Over his career, he was selected to 24 All-Star Games, tied for the second-most of all time. Mays was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999 and ranked second on The Sporting News‘s “List of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players”, behind only Babe Ruth. He was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. “If somebody came up and hit .450, stole 100 bases and performed a miracle in the field every day, I’d still look you in the eye and say Willie was better,” manager Leo Durocher said.
















COURTESY www.almanac.com