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Willie Mays -around participant

Willie Mays is widely considered the best baseball player in history. His speed, his hitting and overall understanding of the game. He’s shown here at the 2004 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y. Al Messerschmidt/WireImage / Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Al Messerschmidt/WireImage / Getty Images Willie Mays is widely considered

Willie Mays -around participant


Willie Mays is widely considered the best baseball player in history. His speed, his hitting and overall understanding of the game. He's shown here at the 2004 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Willie Mays is extensively thought-about one of the best baseball participant in historical past. His pace, his hitting and general understanding of the sport. He is proven right here on the 2004 Baseball Corridor of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Al Messerschmidt/WireImage / Getty Photos


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Al Messerschmidt/WireImage / Getty Photos

Willie Mays is widely considered the best baseball player in history. His speed, his hitting and overall understanding of the game. He's shown here at the 2004 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Willie Mays is extensively thought-about one of the best baseball participant in historical past. His pace, his hitting and general understanding of the sport. He is proven right here on the 2004 Baseball Corridor of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Al Messerschmidt/WireImage / Getty Photos

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Willie Mays, a generational baseball participant often known as the ‘Say Hey Child’, has died at 93. He was thought-about by many to be the best all-around baseball participant in historical past.

Mays’ Hall-of-Fame career spanned greater than 20 years, from the Nineteen Fifties to Seventies. He spent practically all of these years with the Giants – first in New York after which in San Francisco. He was named to the All-Star workforce 24 instances and received Nationwide League Most Priceless Participant awards in 1954 and 1965.


New York Giants outfielder at the Polo Grounds in New York City in 1951.

New York Giants outfielder on the Polo Grounds in New York Metropolis in 1951.

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New York Giants outfielder at the Polo Grounds in New York City in 1951.

New York Giants outfielder on the Polo Grounds in New York Metropolis in 1951.

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“All of Main League Baseball is in mourning right this moment as we’re gathered on the very ballpark the place a profession and a legacy like no different started. Willie Mays took his all-around brilliance from the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League to the historic Giants franchise,” mentioned Main League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. “From coast to coast in New York and San Francisco, Willie impressed generations of gamers and followers as the sport grew and actually earned its place as our Nationwide Pastime.”

MLB is internet hosting a sport Thursday between the Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals at historic Rickwood Area in Birmingham, Ala. the place Mays as soon as performed. Baseball officers have been already planning to honor Mays’s intensive profession on the sport together with an unveiling of a Willie Mays mural.

Followers are already remembering the incomparable ability and infectious pleasure the participant nicknamed “The Say Hey Child” dropped at ballparks throughout the nation.

5 instruments

Someway, the identify Willie Mays by no means was sufficient. Discuss to those that watched him play…those that heard about what he did…and it was at all times the nice Willie Mays.

What he did, as a ballplayer, was all the pieces. Within the commerce, one of the best all-around gamers are known as five-tool gamers. Mays mastered all 5.

Primary – Hitting. 3,000 hits is a hallowed quantity in baseball. Mays completed with 3,283. His profession batting common was a stellar .302.

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Quantity two – Hitting with energy. His profession whole of 660 house runs is the sixth most in historical past.

Willie McCovey was Mays’ longtime teammate in San Francisco.

“His legacy will go down as the best participant of all time,” McCovey mentioned. “I feel everyone knows that already.”

Mays’ command of instruments three, 4 and 5 (Pace, Fielding and Throwing) is greatest illustrated in a single epic play in 1954.

A play merely often known as “The Catch.”

No magic


Known simply as

Recognized merely as “The Catch”. This Sept. 29, 1954 photograph reveals New York Giants middle fielder Willie Mays at his perfect on this miraculous play.

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Known simply as

Recognized merely as “The Catch”. This Sept. 29, 1954 photograph reveals New York Giants middle fielder Willie Mays at his perfect on this miraculous play.

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It was Sport One of many ’54 World Collection, Giants versus the Cleveland Indians within the Giants’ huge ballpark, the Polo Grounds. Within the eighth inning, the rating was tied and Cleveland had males on first and second base. The Indians’ Vic Wertz hit a line drive to deep centerfield, the place Mays performed. Mays turned and sprinted towards the centerfield wall, his again to house plate.

He made the catch over his head. Legendary announcer Jack Brickhouse known as the motion, saying the catch “should’ve been an optical phantasm to lots of people.”

However to not Mays.

In a 2010 NPR interview, he defined there was no magic concerned. Simply sensible considering the second Wertz hit the ball.

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“You ensure that all the pieces is occurring inside sequence,” Mays mentioned. “Meaning I gotta catch the ball, I gotta cease, I gotta make a 360 [turn]. By the point I make the 360, the ball ought to be again into the infield. The important thing to me was the throw. Getting it again into the infield so no person may advance.”

Mays acquired the ball again in. Nobody scored on the play, the Giants received the sport and finally, the World Collection. 4 video games to none.

As nice and celebrated because the catch was, it wasn’t Mays’ favourite.

“He caught a ball as a rookie in Brooklyn,” mentioned Jim Hirsch, who wrote the approved biography, “Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend” in 2010. “It was an extended fly ball hit into left centerfield, towards the fence. He dove flat out, caught the ball, hit the fence and the bottom on the similar time. [Mays] knocked himself out. He acquired a concussion. However he held onto the ball. He mentioned that was his best catch.”


Giant star outfielder, Willie Mays, proudly displays the four baseballs representing the four homers which he hit against the Milwaukee Braves on April 30, 1961

Big star outfielder, Willie Mays, proudly shows the 4 baseballs representing the 4 homers which he hit in opposition to the Milwaukee Braves on April 30, 1961

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Giant star outfielder, Willie Mays, proudly displays the four baseballs representing the four homers which he hit against the Milwaukee Braves on April 30, 1961

Big star outfielder, Willie Mays, proudly shows the 4 baseballs representing the 4 homers which he hit in opposition to the Milwaukee Braves on April 30, 1961

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A scholar

It will be simple to credit score these moments, which have been so quite a few, to Mays’ supreme athleticism. He actually had that. However Hirsch mentioned there was much more concerned in Mays’ strategy to baseball.

Tom Seaver [the Hall of Fame pitcher who died in 2020] instructed me this story,” Hirsch recalled in an interview. “When Willie was traded to the [New York] Mets in 1972, the very first thing Willie did was he went over to Seaver with the opposing workforce’s lineup and he mentioned to Tom, ‘how are you going to pitch every of those gamers and the place ought to I play?’”

“In order that they went down the lineup, acquired their technique. Mays and Seaver developed these indicators in order that as Seaver modified the best way he was going to pitch the hitters, Willie would alter the place he performed in centerfield.”

“Tom Seaver performed within the majors for about 20 years,” Hirsch mentioned, including, “The one participant who ever approached him [like that] was Willie Mays. Willie understood the sport in a method that nobody else did. He was smarter than anybody else. He studied the sport. He tried to grasp all of the nuances in an period earlier than we had computerized fan graphs that instructed you the place each hitter hit the ball, relying on what pitch was thrown.”

And a showman

As necessary because it was for Mays to grasp the sport, it was additionally important to rejoice baseball.

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Aptitude was all the pieces, and it was why the followers who have been thrilled by Mays’ escapades on the diamond, had a smile on their faces too.


Willie Mays won 12 Gold Gloves — the most by anyone with at least 500 home runs and tied for the most for an outfielder.

Willie Mays received 12 Gold Gloves — essentially the most by anybody with at the least 500 house runs and tied for essentially the most for an outfielder.

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Willie Mays won 12 Gold Gloves — the most by anyone with at least 500 home runs and tied for the most for an outfielder.

Willie Mays received 12 Gold Gloves — essentially the most by anybody with at the least 500 house runs and tied for essentially the most for an outfielder.

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“Willie preferred to say that when followers left the ballpark he needed these followers to be speaking about him on the sphere,” Hirsch mentioned in an interview. “What did he do?”

He grinned and laughed. He caught fly balls along with his glove at his waist – the famed basket catch. When he ran, his baseball cap got here off. By design.

“I made the clubhouse man match me a cap that after I ran, it flies proper off,” Mays mentioned within the 2010 NPR interview, including, “you [also] must tilt your head a bit of bit since you acquired to get the wind in there. Folks love that kind of stuff, y’know?”

The showmanship was born on an Alabama Negro League workforce, the Birmingham Black Barons. That is the place Mays first began taking part in professionally as a youngster. Even earlier than then, he performed on a semi-pro workforce sponsored by the metal mill the place his dad labored. Father and son performed collectively within the outfield.

“All people knew [Willie Mays, Sr.] in Birmingham,” Mays instructed the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006. “They known as him ‘Cat’ as a result of he may run like a cat, very fast. After I performed with him, I performed middle, he performed left. I mentioned, ‘You play on the road, I am going to deal with all the pieces else.’”

That confidence continued with the Black Barons.

“What was important in that league,” says Mays biographer Jim Hirsch, “the followers on Sunday would go to church, then after go to the ballpark. And that was their leisure. That is the late Nineteen Forties. They’d go to video games not simply to see a workforce win, and compete, however to get that leisure. That [influenced] how gamers would take leads off bases and steal bases; how they might throw the ball; how they’d flip a double play. It wasn’t simply flip it the best way we see it now. Shortstops would throw the ball behind their again or a primary baseman would do one thing dramatic.”

Mays and different Negro League gamers imported that model of play when the Main Leagues have been built-in. You possibly can see that model in right this moment’s sport. The basket catch is not a novelty anymore; outfielders cost the ball, like infielders, as Mays first did.

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Away from baseball, a non-public man

The Mays effervescence and power typically disappeared away from the ballpark.

“Willie liked the highlight of centerfield,” says Hirsch, “however he hated the scrutiny of stardom.”

Though endlessly loyal with shut pals, Mays was an intensely personal one who tried to maintain individuals at arm’s size. Partly due to how he was raised within the segregated south of the Thirties and 40s.

“He was instructed by his elders that if you wish to survive in a white man’s world, you needed to preserve your head down and your mouth shut,” says Hirsch. “And he stored these phrases to coronary heart his complete life.”

His reticence led to criticism by one other baseball icon.

Jackie Robinson, who broke Main League Baseball’s colour barrier in 1947, criticized Mays for being a outstanding black athlete throughout the unstable Sixties who did not use his platform to talk out publicly on civil rights.

“Jackie was a man that may converse his thoughts very clearly,” Mays mentioned within the 2010 NPR interview. “I applaud him. I do not know if I may have accomplished the issues that he did when he got here in. However what am I going to vary? I can not change the world. I can stay the best way I stay and hope that I may also help individuals of all races, on a regular basis.”


President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to baseball great Willie Mays at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 24, 2015.

President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to baseball nice Willie Mays on the White Home in Washington, DC, on November 24, 2015.

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President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to baseball great Willie Mays at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 24, 2015.

President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to baseball nice Willie Mays on the White Home in Washington, DC, on November 24, 2015.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP by way of Getty Photos

Barack Obama, America’s first African-American president, acknowledged Mays’s impression in 2015, when he awarded Mays the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the very best civilian honor within the U.S.

“In his quiet instance whereas excelling on certainly one of America’s largest phases, [Mays] helped carry ahead the banner of civil rights,” Obama mentioned, including, “it is due to giants like Willie that somebody like me may even take into consideration operating for president.”

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Willie Mays performed baseball for 22 seasons and higher than virtually anybody else. He valued his longevity and sturdiness, telling Hirsch he was proud he got here into the league with a 32-inch waist, and left the league with a 32-inch waist.

However baseball followers right this moment are honoring “24” – Willie Mays’ uniform quantity and never simply 24. The nice 24.

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