Willie Mays

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Willie Mays : biography

May 6, 1931 –

The Giants went on to meet the New York Yankees in the 1951 World Series. Mays was part of the first all-African-American outfield in major league history, along with Hank Thompson and Hall of Famer Monte Irvin in game one of the 1951 World Series.Willie Mays, by Arnold Hano, Tempo Books, Grosset & Dunlop, Inc. NY. copyright 1966, p.80 first printing, August 1966, Library of Congress Number 66-17205 Mays hit poorly, while the Giants lost the series 4-2. The six-game set was the only time that Mays and the aging Joe DiMaggio would play on the same field.The Series, an illustrated history of Baseball’s postseason showcase, 1903–1993, The Sporting News, copyright 1993, The Sporting News Publishing Co. pp. 144–145 ISBN 0-89204-476-4

Mays was a popular figure in Harlem. Magazine photographers were fond of chronicling his participation in local stickball games with kids. It was said that in the urban game of hitting a rubber ball with an adapted broomstick handle, Mays could hit a shot that measured "six sewers" (the distance of six consecutive New York City manhole covers, nearly 300 feet). Retrieved April 9, 2011 Retrieved April 9, 2011

The United States Army drafted Mays in 1952 during the Korean War (1950-1953) and he subsequently missed most of the that season and all of the 1953 season. Mays spent much of his time in the Army playing baseball at Fort Eustis, Virginia. Mays missed about 266 games due to military service.

Mays returned to the Giants in 1954, hitting for a league-leading .345 batting average and slugging 41 home runs. Mays won the National League Most Valuable Player Award and the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year. In addition, the Giants won the National League pennant and the 1954 World Series, sweeping the Cleveland Indians in four games. The 1954 series is perhaps best remembered for "The Catch", an over-the-shoulder running grab by Mays in deep center field of the Polo Grounds of a long drive off the bat of Vic Wertz during the eighth inning of game 1. Considered the iconic image of Mays’ playing career and one of baseball’s most memorable fielding plays,http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00215053.html the catch prevented two Indian runners from scoring, preserving a tie game. The Giants won the game in the 10th inning on a three-run home run by Dusty Rhodes, with Mays scoring the winning run. The Giants went on to win the 1954 World Series, the team’s last championship while based in New York. The next time was 56 years later when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010.

Mays went on to perform at a high level each of the last three years the Giants were in New York. In 1955 he led the league with 51 home runs. In 1956, he hit 36 homers and stole 40 bases, being only the second player, and first National League player, to join the "30-30 club". In 1957, the first season the Gold Glove award was presented, he won the first of 12 consecutive Gold Glove Awards. At the same time, Mays continued to finish in the National League’s top-five in a variety of offensive categories. Mays, Roberto Clemente (also with 12), Al Kaline, Andruw Jones, and Ken Griffey, Jr. are the only outfielders to have ten or more career Gold Gloves. In 1957, Mays become the fourth player in Major League history to join the 20–20–20 club (2B, 3B, HR), something no player had accomplished since 1941. Mays also stole 38 bases that year, making him the second player in baseball history (after Frank Schulte in 1911) to reach 20 in each of those four categories (doubles, triples, homers, steals) in the same season.

San Francisco Giants (1958–72)

After the 1957 season, the Giants franchise and Mays relocated to San Francisco, California. Mays bought two homes in San Francisco, then lived in nearby Atherton.Mary Kay Linge, Willie Mays: A Biography (Greenwood Press, 2005), p.151. As he did in 1954, Mays vied for the National League batting title in 1958 until the final game of the season. Mays collected three hits in the game to finish with a career-high .347, but Philadelphia Phillies’ Richie Ashburn won the title with a .350 average. In 1959 the Giants led by two games with only eight games to play, but only won two of their remaining games and finished fourth, as their pitching staff collapsed due to overwork of their top hurlers. The Dodgers won the pennant following a playoff with the Milwaukee Braves.The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball (6th edition), 1985. As he did in New York, Mays would "play around" with kids playing sandlot ball in San Francisco. On three occasions in 1959 or 1960, he visited Julius Kahn Playground, five blocks from where he lived, including one time Giant players Jim Davenport and Tom Haller.