With the San Francisco Giants returning to the playoffs, it’s a good time to write about my meeting with arguably baseball’s all time greatest all-around player Hall of Famer Willie Mays.
Nicknamed “The Say Hey Kid,” Mays won two MVP awards and tied a record with 24 appearances in the All-Star Game. He ended his career with 660 home runs, third at the time of his retirement and currently fourth all-time. 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.
Since Mays started his career with the New York Giants (before the team moved West to San Francisco), it’s fitting that I met him on the East Coast. He attended a reception I was invited to. Mays was personable and friendly and many of us spoke with him and also took photos. In fact, you can see that I took photos with him with and without my jacket that evening! He didn’t mind, was very patient, and seemed to enjoy the admiration. He was very comfortable amongst many of us who idolized him for the sports icon he was.
As a kid and till this day, when I think of Willie Mays, I think of the greatest living baseball player. His fielding and great arm were legendary. Anyone who follows baseball, at one time or another, has seen the replay of May’s over-the-shoulder running grab in deep center field of the Polo Grounds of a drive off the bat of Vic Wertz during the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. Simply called “The Catch,” it is the iconic photo of May’s playing days.
Today, he still attends Giants games from time to time and is visable at ceremonies honoring him or fellow sports figures. Who knows how far the Giants will go in this year’s playoffs, but meeting one of their all-time greats is already memorable, meeting the legendary “Say Hey Kid.”