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Happy Birthday, Willie Mays

Willie Mays/You Tube
Willie Mays turns 88 today.  He might have been the greatest baseball player to ever grace a diamond.

I once saw Willie Mays hit a home run at Shea Stadium, while he was playing with the San Francisco Giants. If you never saw him play, go on You Tube.  There are numerous videos of Mays at his best.

In 1973 I had the chance to interview Mays, when he was playing for the Mets.  The interview was a disaster.  Hey, I was 18 years old.  Give me a break.  I was nervous as all get go.  Mays could not have been nicer, and I was informed by the Mets PR director he had undergone dental surgery that morning.  Bottom line, however, is that I could have asked better questions.  You win some, you lose some, I guess.

Mays played with the New York and San Francisco Giants, before closing out his career with the Mets, between 1951-1973.  How many people know that number 24 actually wore number 14, when he broke in with the Giants in 1951?  Or that he was on deck, when Bobby Thomson hit the famous "Shot Heard Round The World."  Or that at the tail end of his career, he played in the World Series for the Mets, going 2-for-7 against Oakland?

In 22 seasons Mays had a lifetime batting average of .302.  How about these other career numbers:

  • 660 home runs
  • 1,903 RBI
  • 3,283 hits
  • 338 stolen bases
And in today's statistical vernacular, he had a slash line of .302/.384/.557 for a .941 OPS.

The Hall of Fame broadcaster Red Barber, who witnessed everybody from Joe DiMaggio to Jackie Robinson to Stan Musial to Ted Williams to Mickey Mantle, once told me Willie Mays was the greatest all around player he had seen.

"I don't know anybody who was better on an all around basis, doing everything that a ball player was supposed to do better than Mays," Barber told me in an interview.  "Mantle might have been the greatest ballplayer who ever lived, except he was so badly injured all the time."

Happy Birthday, Willie. 
Willie Mays 6760272467067096002

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