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Willie Mays was greater than an ideal baseball participant. He’s endlessly an icon

There have been players who were the best players of their era, and there have been players who were great representatives of the game of baseball. Willie Mays did both, and he did them at the highest level. Mays, who died Tuesday at the age of 93, embodied everything that you want, not only in

Willie Mays was greater than an ideal baseball participant. He’s endlessly an icon

Russell Dorsey

There have been gamers who had been the perfect gamers of their period, and there have been gamers who had been nice representatives of the sport of baseball.

Willie Mays did each, and he did them on the highest stage.

Mays, who died Tuesday at the age of 93, embodied every little thing that you really want, not solely in a famous person but in addition in an individual. And the swagger, aptitude and charm he confirmed over 4 a long time in baseball endeared him to the folks of New York, San Francisco and the rest of the nation.

Mays was the best baseball player the world has ever seen. Possibly the perfect it is going to ever see. Whenever you run down the checklist of accomplishments and accolades for The Say Hey Child, it’s tough to fathom {that a} participant was capable of do all of the issues he achieved, even in a 23-year profession:

  • 1951 NL Rookie of The 12 months

  • 1954 World Collection champion

  • 3,293 hits

  • 660 house runs

  • 12 Gold Glove Awards

  • 2 NL MVP Awards

  • 24 All-Star Recreation picks

Offensively, Mays was a power on the plate. He was the second participant in MLB historical past to affix the 600-home run membership, after Babe Ruth, and his 660 profession homers nonetheless rank sixth all-time.

Defensively, Mays had no equal. He was unquestionably baseball’s best middle fielder. Earlier than Ken Griffey Jr., Andruw Jones and Torii Hunter, there was Mays, roaming the Polo Grounds and its huge middle discipline like a gazelle, making the not possible look mundane. His 12 Gold Glove Awards by a middle fielder stay probably the most all time on the place.

Mays’ over-the-shoulder catch greater than 500 ft from house plate within the 1954 World Collection, robbing Vic Wertz of a possible game-winning hit, is taken into account the best catch within the historical past of baseball. Seventy years later, it’s nonetheless recognized merely as “The Catch.”

Crimson Sox nice Ted Williams was pretty much as good as any participant ever and is enshrined in Cooperstown on the Baseball Corridor of Fame. However Williams may need made probably the most correct assertion within the historical past of baseball: “They invented the All-Star Recreation for Willie Mays.”

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No. 24’s whole of 24 All-Star nods is surpassed solely by the 25 of his longtime buddy, Hank Aaron. The power to maintain greatness for so long as Mays did is one thing that ought to by no means be taken as a right.

It’s far too straightforward to name Mays a legend. That’s not as a result of the time period is wrong or disrespectful. However for arguably the best baseball participant ever, it merely doesn’t do him justice.

We’d even be remiss if we didn’t level out that Mays’ excellence got here at a time when Black gamers confronted extraordinarily tough challenges coping with bigotry, racism and a society that didn’t embrace them as folks. Mays, who made his debut 4 years after Jackie Robinson broke MLB’s shade barrier, was not simply one of many first Black superstars in baseball; he was one of many first Black superstars in U.S. skilled sports activities. And his skills and charm resonated with Black sports activities followers from coast to coast.

Mays was your favourite participant’s favourite participant, and that’s one thing that adopted him for many years, each whereas he performed and lengthy after he stopped. When Mays performed, he did so with a pleasure, power and keenness that resonated with generations of baseball followers and generations of baseball gamers. The response he’d get from a fan who watched him play for 23 years was the identical response he’d obtain from a participant who grew up following him. The reverence and appreciation for every little thing Mays meant to the sport of baseball by no means ceased.

Starting when he was 15 and taking part in for the Birmingham Black Barons at Rickwood Discipline, Mays started an extended, profitable journey to turning into a part of the pantheon of baseball’s immortals. Within the course of, he left the sport and the world in a lot better form than he discovered them.

And even after a Corridor of Fame profession, that’s what made Mays nice. In a room of the perfect gamers on this planet, each when he performed and after, all of them knew he was the perfect.

Willie Mays wasn’t a legend. He was and endlessly will likely be an icon.

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