Willie Mays

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Willie Mays : biography

May 6, 1931 –

Mays played a season and a half with the Mets before retiring, appearing in 133 games. The New York Mets honored him on September 25, 1973, (Willie Mays Night) where he thanked the New York fans and said goodbye to America. He finished his career in the 1973 World Series, which the Mets lost to the Oakland Athletics in seven games. Mays got the first hit of the Series, but had only seven at-bats (with two hits). In his final at bat Mays hit a key single to help the Mets win Game 2. He also fell down in the outfield during a play where he was hindered by the glare of the sun and by the hard outfield. Mays later said, "growing old is just a helpless hurt." In 1972 and 1973, Mays was the oldest regular position player in baseball. He became the oldest position player to appear in a World Series game.Willie’s Time, by Charles Einstein

Mays retired after the 1973 season with a lifetime batting average of .302 and 660 home runs. His lifetime total of 7,095 outfield fielding putouts remains the major league record.

Mays is the only Major League player to have hit a home run in every inning from the 1st through the 16th innings.http://sabr.org/research/offbeat-record-held-willie-mays He finished his career with a record 22 extra-inning home runs.

Early professional career

Negro leagues

Mays’ professional baseball career began in 1947, while he was still in high school and played briefly with the Chattanooga Choo-Choos in Tennessee during the summer. A short time later, Mays left the Choo-Choo and returned to his home state to join the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League. Mays helped them win their pennant and advance to the 1948 Negro League World Series, where they lost the series 4-1 to the Homestead Grays. Mays hit .226 for the season, but it was said his excellent fielding and baserunning made him a useful player. By playing professionally with the Black Barons, Mays jeopardized his opportunities to play high school sports in Alabama. This created some problems for him with high school administrators at Fairfield, who wanted him to help the teams and ticket sales.Hirsch, p. 38-48

Over the next several years, a number of Major League baseball franchises sent scouts to watch him play. The first was the Boston Braves. The scout who discovered him, Bud Maughn, had been following him for over a year and referred him to the Braves, who then packaged a deal which called for $7,500 down and $7,500 in 30 days. They also planned to give Mays $6,000. The obstacle in the deal was that Tom Hayes, owner of the Birmingham Black Barons, wanted to keep Mays for the balance of the season. Had the team been able to act more quickly, the Braves franchise might have had both Mays and Hank Aaron in their outfield from 1954 to 1973. The Brooklyn Dodgers also scouted him and wanted Ray Blades to negotiate a deal, but were too late. The New York Giants had already signed Mays for $4,000 and assigned him to their Class-B affiliate in Trenton, New Jersey.June 22, 1950 letter from Eddie Montague to Jack Schwarz

Minor leagues

After Mays had a batting average of .353 in Trenton, N.J., he began the 1951 season with the class AAA Minneapolis Millers of the American Association. During his short time span in Minneapolis, Mays played with two other future Hall of Famers: Hoyt Wilhelm and Ray Dandridge. Batting .477 in 35 games and playing excellent defense, Mays was called up to the Giants on May 24, 1951. Mays was at a movie theater in Sioux City, Iowa when he found out he was being called up. A message flashed up on the screen that said: "WILLIE MAYS CALL YOUR HOTEL."The Giants of the Polo Grounds by Noel Hynd (1988). New York: Doubleday. page 358. ISBN 0-385 23790-1 He appeared in his first major league game the next day in Philadelphia. Mays moved to Harlem, New York, where his mentor was a New York State Boxing Commission official and former Harlem Rens basketball legend Frank "Strangler" Forbes.

Television appearances