By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
Today, Willie “Say Hey” Mays turns 84 years old. Mays is undeniably one of the sport’s biggest icons and has been in the news recently with Alex Rodriguez tying and passing his career home run mark. In honor of his birthday, let’s countdown his Top 5 moments from his MLB career.
5) 1st Career Hit
Mays is one of the best baseball players of all-time but he struggled initially when he first got called up by the Giants in 1951. He hadn’t recorded a hit going into May 28, 1951 when he faced off against the great Warren Spahn. With a flair for the dramatic, Mays homered for his first major league hit off of Spahn. Spahn joked afterwards that they may have been able to get rid of Mays forever had he struck him out.
4) Mays Throws Cox Out At Home
This catch was one that prior to starting this list was unknown to me. However, after doing some digging, Mays made a ridiculous defensive play that is detailed well on Bleacher Report here. Read through that account and tell me even without the image that you aren’t impressed. That is an unbelievable defensive play. Not, however, Mays’ best of his career.
3) 3,000th Hit
Mays had great power as his next moment will illustrate, but he also was perfectly willing to just put the ball in play and get on base. On July 18, 1970, Mays became just the 10th player in MLB history with 3,000 hits.
2) 600th Home Run
When he stepped to the plate on September 22, 1969, Mays was one home run shy of becoming the 2nd player in Major League Baseball history (and the first in the National League) to hit 600 home runs. Mike Corkins, pitcher for the San Diego Padres, toed the rubber and delivered.
History was made.
1) The Catch
This moment is one that has become famous in baseball lore and is best explained with some video of it.[youtube:”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vrsg_-dV7Q”%5D
I’m a young(er) guy. I wasn’t alive for this catch, but I appreciate just how difficult this catch was to make given the circumstances. 1) It was Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. There’s not really a bigger moment to be had. 2) This catch was made in dead center field in the old Polo Grounds. The Polo Grounds from everything I’ve read, was absolutely cavernous in centerfield.
Happy Birthday to “The Say Hey Kid.” One of the greatest ball players of all-time.