28 Facts About Willie Mays


Willie Mays joined the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League in 1948, playing with them until the Giants signed him once he graduated from high school in 1950, then won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1951 after hitting 20 home runs to help the Giants win their first pennant in 14 years.

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Willie Mays was the runner-up for the MVP in 1958 after hitting a career-high.

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Willie Mays was at the forefront of a resurgence of speed as an offensive weapon in the 1950s, leading the league in stolen bases four times, triples three times and runs twice, with his 179 steals during the decade topping the major leagues; he was the first NL player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season, and the first player in history to reach both 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases.

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Willie Mays set standards for defensive brilliance, winning 12 consecutive Gold Glove Awards after their creation in 1957, still a record for outfielders; he led NL center fielders in double plays five times and assists three times.

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Willie Mays ended his career with a return to New York after a mid-season trade to the New York Mets in 1972, retiring after the team's trip to the 1973 World Series.

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Willie Mays was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 in his first year of eligibility, and was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999.

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Willie Mays spent the rest of 1950 with the Class B Trenton Giants of the Interstate League, batting.

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Willie Mays began the 1954 season on Opening Day with a home run of over 414 feet against Carl Erskine.

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Willie Mays added base stealing to his talents, upping his total from eight in 1954 to 24 in 1955.

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In 1956, Willie Mays struggled at first to get along with new manager Bill Rigney, who publicly criticized him.

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Willie Mays had his first serious injury in 1959, a collision with Sammy White in spring training that resulted in 35 stitches in his leg, but he was ready by the start of the season.

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Willie Mays said in 1959 that he did not mind the booing, but he admitted in a 1961 article that the catcalls were bothering him.

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Whatever the reason, the boos, which had begun to subside after Willie Mays's four-home run game in 1961, grew even quieter in 1962, as the Giants enjoyed their best season since moving to San Francisco.

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Normally the third batter in the lineup, Willie Mays was moved to fourth in 1964 before returning to third in subsequent years.

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Willie Mays won his second MVP award in 1965 behind a career-high 52 home runs, in what Barra said "may very well have [been] his best year".

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Willie Mays had 13 home runs and 44 RBI through his first 75 games of 1967 but then went into a slump.

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Willie Mays got off to a fast start in 1971, the year he turned 40.

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Willie Mays got off to a tortuous start to the 1972 season, batting.

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In 1973, Willie Mays showed up a day late to spring training, then left in the middle of it without notifying manager Yogi Berra beforehand.

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Willie Mays led off the 1968 All-Star Game with a single, moved to second on an error, advanced to third base on a wild pitch, and scored the only run of the game when McCovey hit into a double play; for his contributions, Willie Mays won the All-Star Game MVP Award for the second time.

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In 1960, Willie Mays did not barnstorm, but he and the Giants did go to Tokyo, playing an exhibition series of 16 games against the Yomiuri Giants.

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Naturally more of a pull hitter, Willie Mays adjusted his style in 1954 to hit more to right and center field in a quest for a higher batting average at his manager's request, but the change was not permanent.

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Sabermetrician Bill James thinks Willie Mays was the best centerfielder of all time, naming him the best in the major leagues in the 1950s and the 1960s.

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At the Pittsburgh drug trials in 1985, former Mets teammate John Milner testified Willie Mays kept a bottle of liquid amphetamine in his locker at Shea Stadium.

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In October 1979, Willie Mays took a job at the Bally's Park Place casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

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Willie Mays was named special assistant to the president and general manager of the Giants in 1986.

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Willie Mays signed a lifetime contract with the team in 1993 and helped to muster public enthusiasm for building Pac Bell Park, which opened in 2000.

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Willie Mays became the third husband of Marghuerite Wendell Chapman in 1956.

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