Willie Mays Baseball Career

Willie Mays born May 6, 1931 played the majority of his career with the New York and San Francisco Giants before finishing with the New York Mets. Nicknamed The Say Hey Kid, Mays was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility. Many consider him to be the greatest all-around player of all time.

Willie Mays Baseball CareerWillie Mays won two MVP awards and tied a record with twenty-four appearances in the All-Star Game. He ended his career with 660 career home runs, third at the time of his retirement, and currently fourth all-time. In 1999, Mays placed second on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, making him the highest-ranking living player. Later that year, he was also elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Willie Mays is the only Major League player to have hit a home run in every inning from the 1st through the 16th. He finished his career with a record 22 extra-inning home runs. Mays is one of four NL players to have eight consecutive 100-RBI seasons, along with Mel Ott, Sammy Sosa and Albert Pujols. Mays hit 50 or more home runs in both 1955 and 1965. This time span represents the longest stretch between 50 plus home run seasons for any player in Major League Baseball history.

Wilie Mays' first Major League manager, Leo Durocher, said of Mays: "He could do the five things you have to do to be a superstar: hit, hit with power, run, throw, and field. And he had that other ingredient that turns a superstar into a super superstar. He lit up the room when he came in. He was a joy to be around." Upon his Hall of Fame induction, Willie Mays was asked who was the best player that he had seen during his career. Mays replied, "I don't mean to be bashful, but I was." Ted Williams once said "They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays."

Willie Mays New York Giants (1951–57)  Mays began his career with no hits in his first twelve at bats. On his thirteenth at bat, he hit a homer over the left field fence of the Polo Grounds off Warren Spahn. willie Mays' average improved steadily throughout the rest of the season. Although his .274 average, 68 RBI and 20 homers (in 121 games) were among the lowest of his career, he still won the 1951 Rookie of the Year Award. During the Giants' comeback in August and September 1951 to overtake the Dodgers in the 1951 pennant race, Mays' fielding, and great arm were often instrumental to several important Giant victories. Willie Mays ended the regular season in the on-deck circle when Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Heard 'Round the World against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Willie Mays Baseball CareerThe Giants went on to meet the New York Yankees in the 1951 World Series. Willie Mays was part of the first all-black outfield in major league history, along with Hall of Famer Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson, in Game One of the 1951 World Series. Willie Mays hit poorly, while the Giants lost the series four games to two games. The six-game set was the only time that Mays and the aging Joe DiMaggio would play on the same field.

The United States Army drafted Mays in 1952 and he subsequently missed part of the 1952 season and all of the 1953 season. Despite the conflict in Korea, Mays spent most of his time in the army playing baseball at Fort Eustis, Va. 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 also 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, the catch prevented two Indians runners from scoring, preserving a tie game. The Giants won the game in the 10th inning, with Mays scoring the winning run.

Willie Mays went on to perform at a high level each of the last three years the Giants were in New York City. In 1957, he won the first of twelve consecutive Gold Glove Awards. At the same time, Mays continued to finish in the NL's top five in a variety of offensive categories. Mays, Roberto Clemente, also with twelve, and Ken Griffey, Jr. are the only outfielders to have more than ten career Gold Gloves. 1957 also saw Mays become the fourth player in Major League history to join the 20–20–20 club (2B,3B,HR). No player had joined the "club" since 1941. George Brett accomplished the feat in 1979; and both Curtis Granderson and Jimmy Rollins joined the club in 2007.

Willie Mays San Francisco Giants (1958–72) The Giants were not one of the top teams in the National League between 1955 and 1960; they never finished higher than third place or won more than 83 games in a season. 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. 1958 found Mays vying for the NL batting title, down to the final game of season, just as in 1954. Mays collected three hits in the game, but Philadelphia Phillies' Richie Ashburn won the title.

Alvin Dark was hired to manage the Giants before the start of the 1961 season, and named Mays team captain. The improving Giants finished '61 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 4 home runs against the Milwaukee Braves. Mays is the only Major Leaguer to have both a 3-triple game and a 4-HR 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 versus the Dodgers, advancing to play in the World Series. The Giants lost to the Yankees in seven games, and Mays hit just .250 with only two extra-base hits. It was his last World Series appearance as a member of the Giants.

In both 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 fifteen scoreless innings. In the bottom of the sixteenth inning, Mays hit a home run off Spahn for a 1–0 Giants victory.

Willie Mays won his second MVP award in 1965 behind a career-high 52 home runs. He also hit career home run number 500 on September 13, 1965 off Don Nottebart.

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

Willie hit career home run number 600 off San Diego's Mike Corkins in September 1969. Plagued by injuries that season, he managed only thirteen home runs. Mays enjoyed a resurgence in 1970, hitting twenty-eight homers and got off to a fast start in 1971, the year he turned 40. He had fifteen home runs at the All Star break, but faded down the stretch and finished with eighteen.

Willie Mays 1073 Baseball CardWillie Mays 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. 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 position as a coach upon his retirement.

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 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. In his Mets debut, Mays put New York ahead to stay with a 5th-inning home run against his former team, the Giants.

Willie Mays played a season and a half with the Mets before retiring, appearing in 133 games. 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 1972 and 1973, Mays was the oldest regular position player in baseball. Mays retired after the 1973 season with a lifetime batting average of .302 and 660 home runs