Willie Mays

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Willie Mays : biography

May 6, 1931 –

Alvin Dark was hired to manage the Giants before the start of the 1961 season and named Mays team captain. The improving Giants finished 1961 in third place and won 85 games, more than any of the previous six campaigns. Mays had one of his best games on April 30, 1961, hitting four home runs against the Milwaukee Braves in County Stadium. Mays went four for five at the plate and was on deck for a chance to hit a record fifth home run when the Giants’ half of the ninth inning ended.. Mays flied out to center field in leading off the fifth. Mays is the only Major Leaguer to have both three triples in a game and four home runs in a game.

The Giants won the National League pennant in 1962, with Mays leading the team in eight offensive categories. The team finished the regular season in a tie for first place with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and went on to win a three-game playoff series against the Dodgers, advancing to play in the World Series. The Giants lost to the Yankees in seven games, and Mays batted .250 with two extra-base hits. It was his last World Series appearance as a member of the Giants.

In the 1963 and 1964 seasons Mays batted in over 100 runs and hit 85 total home runs. On July 2, 1963, Mays played in a game when future Hall of Fame members Warren Spahn and Juan Marichal each threw 15 scoreless innings. In the bottom of the 16th inning, Mays hit a home run off Spahn for a 1–0 Giants victory.

Mays won his second MVP award in 1965 behind a career-high 52 home runs. On September 13, 1965, he hit his 500th career home run off Don Nottebart. Warren Spahn, off whom Mays hit his first career home run, was his teammate at the time. After the home run, Spahn greeted Mays in the dugout, asking "Was it anything like the same feeling?" Mays replied "It was exactly the same feeling. Same pitch, too." On August 22, 1965, Mays and Sandy Koufax acted as peacemakers during a 14-minute brawl between the Giants and Dodgers after San Francisco pitcher Juan Marichal had bloodied Dodgers catcher John Roseboro with a bat.

Mays played in over 150 games for 13 consecutive years (a major-league record) from 1954 to 1966. In 1966, his last with 100 RBIs, Mays finished third in the National League MVP voting. It was the ninth and final time he finished in the top five in the voting for the award.He also finished sixth in the balloting three times. In 1970, the Sporting News named Mays as the 1960s "Player of the Decade."

Mays hit his 600th home run off San Diego’s Mike Corkins in September 1969. Plagued by injuries that season, he managed only 13 home runs. Mays enjoyed a resurgence in 1970, hitting 28 homers, and got off to a fast start in 1971, the year he turned 40. He had 15 home runs at the All-Star break, but faded down the stretch and finished with 18. Mays helped the Giants win the division title that year, but they lost the NLCS to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

During his time on the Giants, Mays was friends with fellow player Bobby Bonds. When Bobby’s son, Barry Bonds, was born, Bobby asked Willie Mays to be Barry’s godfather. Mays and the younger Bonds have maintained a close relationship ever since.http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/q-are-barry-bonds-and-willie/

New York Mets (1972–73)

In May 1972, the 41-year-old Mays was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher Charlie Williams and $50,000 ($ today). At the time, the Giants franchise was losing money. Owner Horace Stoneham could not guarantee Mays an income after retirement and the Mets offered Mays a coaching position upon his retirement.Shaun McCormack, Willie Mays (Rosen Publishing Group, 2003).

Mays had remained popular in New York long after the Giants had left for San Francisco, and the trade was seen as a public relations coup for the Mets. Mets owner Joan Whitney Payson, who was a minority shareholder of the Giants when the team was in New York, had long desired to bring Mays back to his baseball roots and was instrumental in making the trade.Post, Paul; and Lucas, Ed. , Baseball Digest, March 2003. Accessed July 15, 2008. "Mets owner Joan Payson had always wanted to bring the `Say Hey Kid’ back to his baseball roots, and she finally pulled it off in a deal that shocked the baseball world." On May 14, 1972, in his Mets debut, Mays put New York ahead to stay with a fifth-inning home run against Don Carrithers and his former team, the Giants, on a rainy Sunday afternoon at Shea Stadium. Then on August 17, 1973, in a game against the Cincinnati Reds with Don Gullett on the mound, Willie hit a fourth inning solo home run over the right-center field fence. It was the 660th, and last, home run of his major league career.