Joe Posnanski: Willie Mays is the greatest MLB player of all-time


Aug 29, 2013
Apologies, it is behind a paywall.
But for the last few months, Posnanski has been writing up his top 100 players of all-time.

Typically, we've always ended up with Ruth as the greatest. But nearly after a century, opinions are changing.

The Baseball 100: No. 1, Willie Mays

Think for a moment about the first vivid baseball memory you have.

Perhaps you have a hollow plastic bat in your hands and a Wiffle Ball floats toward you. How old are you? 3? 5? Older? All you want to do is hit the ball. Where does that hunger come from? Who taught you that? Nobody. It is an instinct. You stand rigidly with your legs spread apart and the bat resting on your shoulder — maybe your parents set you up that way like an action figure. The ball dangles in midair like a disco ball. You swing the bat the way you imagine it should be swung, and you connect, perfect contact.

The ball takes off like a leaf caught in the wind, and you begin to run and stumble toward invisible bases that hide in the grass. You run a tight circle around the pitcher — is it your dad? Your mom? Your grandpa? Your best friend? — until you make it all the way around.

And when you get back where you started, you tumble over in the best version of a slide that you can muster. Who taught you how to slide? No one. You just knew.

That memory is Willie Mays.

Or maybe it is this: You and a friend throw a rubber ball (a tennis ball?) against the stairs that climb up to your front door. The sun is so big and warm that it seems to color the cloudless sky yellow. If you throw a ball against those stairs just right — so that the ball hits the upper corner flush — it will take off like a toy rocket. And that’s what your friend does. The ball erupts off the stair and goes soaring toward the street, and you turn your back and sprint after it. You can’t catch it, but you run just the same because … well, just because. And then to your surprise, you find that you start gaining on the ball. You can see it coming down, and you can see that if you reach out, stretch out, thrust out your arm as far as it can possibly go …

And maybe you catch it. How did you catch it? You don’t know but you feel electricity buzzing throughout your body and you shout out to your friend, “DID YOU SEE THAT?” And your friend jumps up and down excitedly — or, wait, maybe you are the friend — and the two of you spend the rest of the afternoon reliving the catch.

That memory is Willie Mays.

Maybe your memory is of buying a new pack of baseball cards. This might be in the days when baseball cards come with a rectangle of rock-hard chewing gum that tastes like cardboard and rubs your tongue raw like sandpapers … or maybe this is years later, when there was no gum, when instead there would be specialty cards inside, maybe an autographed card or one that has a little piece of fabric worn by a major leaguer.

Either way, you pull off the plastic wrapper slowly because you want to savor it all, make the experience last for as long you can. And you slide down the top card just a little so that it reveals only a tiny portion of what card is next. Hmm. Look here. The next player is on your favorite team. Could it be? You don’t dare to hope yet. You slide the card down a little more. Yes, it might be. A little more. Yes! The next card is your favorite player, you already know that this next card is now the most valuable thing you own, and you might sleep with it under your pillow or you might put it in one of those baseball card cases for protection. Whatever you do, your life is just a little bit different and better than it was before.

That memory is Willie Mays.

Perhaps you are at a ballpark. Everything looks so green. You’d seen games on television. You’ve looked at boxscores and imagined. But you never believed it could be so green.

The smells overwhelm you — what is that? Beer? Hot dogs? Funnel cakes? Sweat? Yes. All of it. Baseball smells like an amusement park and a backyard barbecue and an afternoon at a movie theater and recess at the playground all at once. Then you hear the sounds, cheers and chatter, boos and a vendor selling peanuts, claps and stomps and groans and hopeful screams that either rise into happy symphonies or trail off into disheartened sighs, all while an organist plays “Hava Nagila” and a Mexican Hat Dance and a cavalry charge and that nameless song that plays a duet with your rapid heartbeat.

Here we go (YOUR TEAM), here we go (CLAP CLAP).

Maybe you even keep score. You’d have to be a certain age for that to ring true, probably. To keep score, you mark (with your blunt pencil that barely leaves a mark) a 6-3 for a grounder to short or a 9 for a fly ball to right field or you trace that pencil all around the bases and draw a diamond for a home run.

And then a ball is hit deep and the center fielder chases after it, but there is no chance the ball can be caught, the geometry teacher in your head tells you so. Then you see the ball and the man converge, and at the last possible instant the center fielder takes flight and pulls it in, and all at once, all together, people lose their bleeping minds.

“Put a star next to that one,” someone tells you, and you do, you put a little star next to the “8.”

That memory, most of all, is Willie Mays.

I don’t know who the greatest baseball player is. Maybe for our purposes that admission comes 280,000 or so words too late, sure, but I did always believe that admission was present between the words. Can anyone really say if Ichiro Suzuki was better than Tony Gwynn was better than Rod Carew was better than Wade Boggs? If Sadaharu Oh or Buck Leonard could have hit big-league pitching? How Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax really match up? Can anyone tell you with any real certainty if Cool Papa Bell could have stolen more bases than Eddie Collins or what Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams or Bob Feller might have done if not for wars?

Can anyone truly know how Mel Ott would have hit for the 1998 Mariners, Carl Yastrzemski for the 1933 Giants, Ken Griffey Jr. for the 1967 Red Sox?

Babe Ruth in modern times? Josh Gibson in the major leagues? Ty Cobb or Cy Young with a live ball? Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens clean? Willie McCovey with the juicy baseball of 2019? Bob Gibson in this time of many relievers? Mike Trout against the spitball?

Can anyone know?

But wait! Of course we can know. More than that: We do know. We know the answers to all these questions and more because … well, because we know. See, all along, this journey has not just been about the greatest players in baseball history. It has been about us, too: fans. It’s about the things we believe in, the myths we hold dear, the statistics we embrace, the memories we carry.

When a magician performs magic, it doesn’t mean anything unless there is someone on the other end feeling wonder.

So, yes, we know who was the greatest ever. We know because baseball goes back more than 150 years to that time when America didn’t have a sport or a fully realized identity of its own. Americans boxed and played cricket but who didn’t? Football was still rugby. Horses raced. Boats raced. Basketball and hockey had not yet been invented. Golf and tennis had not quite made it over the ocean.

And baseball spread from town to town like gossip. “Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic!” America’s poet Walt Whitman said in 1889, and by then he had been writing on and off about the game for 40 years. It didn’t look like our baseball at first — it was called “base ball” or “base-ball” — but it got there pretty quickly. And baseball tied communities together. Baseball gave people something to share. Baseball created a new language. And, sure, it launched a few million dreams along the way.

And then it was always there. It didn’t fade away, even when so many other things did. And when America grappled with the meaning of “All men are created equal,” baseball asked that same question. When America searched for its soul, baseball searched for its soul.

And the greatest players …

From Cy Young and Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner

To the Georgia Peach and the Big Train and Oscar Charleston

To the Babe and Lou Gehrig and Satchel

To Joltin’ Joe and Ted Williams and Stan the Man

To Hammerin’ Hank and Roberto Clemente and the Mick

To Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson and Yaz

To Reggie and Tom Terrific and Pete Rose

To Mike Schmidt and George Brett and Nolan Ryan

To the Rocket and Barry Bonds and Rickey

To Greg Maddux and Junior and the Big Unit

To Pedro and Ichiro and Mariano

To Albert Pujols and Justin Verlander and Mike Trout

… made people feel something more than baseball, something deeper than ground-rule doubles and infield flies and called strikes and an outfielder hitting the cutoff. Who is the greatest player of all time? You know. Maybe your father told you. Maybe you read about him when you were young. Maybe you sat in the stands and saw him play. Maybe you bask in his statistics. The greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.

And now, let’s talk about Willie Mays.


Aug 29, 2013
On Aug. 15, 1951, less than three months after he was called to the big leagues, Willie Mays stood in center field of the Polo Grounds. More than 21,000 people were in the stands that day to see the Giants play the hated Dodgers. You couldn’t exactly say there was a pennant race going on yet — the Dodgers led the Giants by 10½ games — but any Dodgers game was important and, anyway, there was a reason to hope.

The reason was Willie Mays.

He was a new name then; this was before just hearing those three syllables, “Willie Mays,” sparked emotion. Mays had started the year playing Triple-A ball in Minneapolis. He was expected to stay there most of the year, perhaps the entire year, but he played so absurdly well from the start that the Giants called for him barely a month into the season.

“I’m not ready,” Mays told the Giants manager Leo Durocher over the phone. “I can’t hit that big-league curveball.”

“What are you hitting now?” Durocher asked.

“Uh, .477,” Mays said sheepishly.

“Get your @#$%^ up here,” Durocher shouted.

Mays did, in fact, hit .477 in Minneapolis with 18 doubles, three triples and eight home runs in 35 games, but that wasn’t the crazy part.

No, the crazy part was that his hitting barely mattered. His hitting wasn’t what had people in Minneapolis mesmerized and it wasn’t why Durocher so badly wanted him. No, the thing that made everybody lose their minds was the way this kid played center field. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. “I can’t very well tell a batter not to hit it to him,” Gil Hodges would later say. “Wherever they hit it, he’s there anyway.”

He was everywhere. Mays had patterned his game after his hero, Joe DiMaggio (“I saw him a couple of times in the newsreels,” he said), and Mays was even faster than DiMaggio and had a much stronger arm. He could throw out base runners from anywhere in the outfield. He could run down absolutely anything.

“There were men faster than Willie Mays,” Buck O’Neil said. “But I never saw one faster with a fly ball in the air.”

But even that doesn’t get at why Mays’ outfield defense was so life-altering. See, Joe D played the outfield with this quiet grace. It looked effortless. So it was with Tris Speaker and Oscar Charleston. But not Mays. No, Willie Mays going after a fly ball was cotton candy and a carousel and fireworks and a big band playing all at once. His athletic genius was in how every movement expressed sheer delight.

When you watched Mays play center field, you smiled. You laughed happily. You felt your insides warm up like after drinking a perfect mug of hot cocoa.

“I’m not sure what the hell charisma is,” Reds slugger Ted Kluszewski once said. “But I get the feeling it’s Willie Mays.”

The Minneapolis Millers didn’t want the Giants to take him away. They tried to keep him a secret, best they could. “Mays, you say?” the team’s general manager Rosy Ryan would respond to reporters’ questions as if it was the first time he had heard the name. He tried to downplay Mays’ brilliance. “Yes, that’s true,” he said after one baseball lifer or another talked about Mays’ unrivaled talent for baseball. “But the kid still has some baseball to learn, naturally.”

Mays didn’t, and Ryan knew it, but you couldn’t blame the guy for trying. Anyway, it didn’t work. The Giants took him to the big leagues and sent a note of apology to run in the local papers.

Then Mays got off to a rough start in the majors. He started 1-for-26, his only hit being a home run off Warren Spahn. “I’ll never forgive myself,” Spahn would say. “We might have gotten rid of Willie forever if only I’d struck him out.”

Even with the homer, Mays was despondent. He had only just turned 20 years old, and he was not being coy when he told Durocher that he couldn’t hit a big-league curveball. He had doubts. After his sluggish start, those doubts turned into fears. Could he make it in the big leagues? Mays was sobbing in the clubhouse when Durocher called him in and told him two things.

One, he said, pull up your pants higher so that umpires stop calling that low strike on you. Mays didn’t really listen to that — he always played the game in his own style.

Two, Durocher said he didn’t care what Mays hit. As long as he played good defense, he would be the Giants’ center fielder. Mays did listen to this part. He relaxed. He hit .402 and slugged .696 over the next 24 games. He didn’t worry much after that.

All the while, he played defense like a dream. In Pittsburgh one day — well, it was July 25, 1951, you can look it up even if it sounds like a folk story — Mays was in center field when the Pirates’ Rocky Nelson launched a long fly ball to left-center. Mays took off after it and chased it down but he realized at the very last second that he was too late. He didn’t have enough time to get his glove out there in time to reel it in.

So he simply put out his bare hand and caught the ball.

He couldn’t stop smiling after that. He always had a smile in those days anyway, but that catch had turned him inside out with glee. At the end of the inning, he raced into the Giants’ dugout in order to get showered with all of the slaps and praise and tributes and good-natured ribbing that such an absurd catch demands. But nobody in the dugout moved. Nobody in the dugout spoke. He was surrounded by complete silence.

“Leo!” he shouted to Durocher. “Did you see that catch I made?”

Durocher looked up stunned as if surprised to see Mays there.

“No, Willie, I didn’t see it,” Durocher said. “Can you go out there and do it again next inning?”

And with that, all his teammates raced in and crushed Mays with happiness and disbelief. “The finest catch I have ever seen and the finest catch I ever hope to see,” Pirates general manager Branch Rickey would say.

Yes, they loved him. Everybody did. “The kid everybody likes,” Grantland Rice would call Mays. He played the game with such exuberance, such passion. He would catch fly balls basket-style — with his glove at his waist and turned upside down as if he might be trying to catch pennies from heaven — and while he insisted that this was so he could throw the ball more quickly, the truth was that it was fun. After games, he would sometimes go play stickball in the streets with kids.

And every sentence, it seemed, he began with a joyful, “Hey!” He loved to talk to people, and as James Hirsch wrote in his book, “Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend:” “His ‘Hey’ was a high-spirited chirp and because he was terrible with names and was constantly being introduced to strangers, he would follow his greeting with a question: ‘Hey, how you doin’?’ or “Hey, where you been?’” Reporters started to notice and began to point out how often he would say “hey.”

Say hey?

Hey! He was the Say Hey Kid!

Let’s go back to that August day in 1951. The score was tied and the Dodgers had runners on first and third with one out. If the Dodgers had scored a run there and won that game, there’s a good chance that all the things that people remember about that famous season — the Giants coming back to force a playoff (while using a sign-stealing system), Bobby Thomson hitting the shot heard round the world, Russ Hodges shouting “The Giants win the pennant!” over and over again — would never have happened.

Billy Cox was the runner on third base, and Carl Furillo was at the plate. Furillo hit a fly ball to right-center field. Mays had been shading Furillo to left — Mays’ instincts about positioning were normally supernatural — and he had to take off running. People have, through the years, argued about the catch itself. Some have remembered him needing to dive for it. Others said he had to stretch out to the point where a normal human being would have lost balance. Others said he made the catch pretty comfortably.

Nobody argues about what happened next, though. Mays caught the ball and then in one motion whirled and — “like a discus heaver,” Jim McCulley wrote in the New York Daily News — threw blindly toward the plate. The ball and Cox reached home plate at the same time. An astonished Cox tried to maneuver around and missed the plate. Giants catcher Wes Westrum laid on the tag anyway. Cox was out. The world turned upside down.

“I want to see him do it again,” Dodgers manager Charlie Dressen said when asked about the play. “I’ve been in baseball for 30-odd years and never saw anything like that.”

Nobody knows for sure when a baseball cap first flew off the head of Willie Mays. It was probably when he was still a kid in and around Westfield, Ala. His father, Willie Mays Sr., was called Kitty Cat — or more often just “Cat” — for his quickness on the diamond. He was not, as some have said, a player in the Negro Leagues. He played locally. But that shouldn’t give a false impression; Cat Mays was a terrific ballplayer. He used to say that he only made it through the Depression by picking up a few bucks every week playing for various mill teams around town — his services were always in demand.

Cat wanted to raise a ballplayer. The legend goes that when Willie was about 6 months old, Cat put a baseball on a chair and said, “Go get it.” The thing I love most about that story is that, if true, it happened almost exactly at the time when several states away, in Spavinaw, Okla., another dreamer had a son he hoped would become a great ballplayer.

Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle would be connected in many ways throughout their lives.

Cat Mays was not Mutt Mantle, however. He did not force his son into the game. Maybe this was because he did not have to. From the start, Willie wanted to play ball more than anything in the world. He would wait impatiently for his father to come home from the steel mill so that they could play catch.


Aug 29, 2013
Willie was a baseball prodigy — well, to be more precise he was, like Mickey, an athletic prodigy. Incredibly, Mays’ best sport was probably football. He could throw jump passes 60 yards. But there was no place in big-time college or professional sports for a black quarterback then and, anyway, baseball was the driving force in his life. At 16, Cat’s friend Piper Davis, manager of the Negro League’s Birmingham Black Barons, offered Willie a spot in the outfield. Willie was still so young that he would go to school on weekdays and play games on the weekends.

It was likely around then that his cap first flew off. In those days, Mays was still learning how to be a hitter. He did have some early trouble picking up the curveball. And he could still be overmatched. He remembered the first time he faced Satchel Paige. He rocketed a double off Paige, who had probably wanted to take it easy on the youngster. Then Mays must have smiled a bit too widely at second base because Paige noticed it and walked on over.“That’s all for you today, young ‘un,” Paige said.

“My next three times,” Mays would say, “I went whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.”

While he needed to learn some things about hitting, he knew all there was to know about playing center field. It’s like he was born with it. “I didn’t need a book,” he would say. He could sense where the ball was going before it was hit. He automatically ran the best route to the ball. And he threw like nobody; he had pitched as a kid and people who saw him swore he could have been Bob Gibson. It didn’t interest him.

And around that time, he must have been running and the hat must have gone flying and people watching surely gasped. There’s something so sublime about Willie Mays running so hard that he loses his cap. Some said it happened because of the shape of his forehead. Others said it was because of his running style — his head would be up and the bill of his cap would catch the wind. Mays loved the reaction so much that, later, he said that he would start wearing caps that were too big for him, just to give the crowd a thrill.

But in those early days, the cap took off all on its own. And that became his trademark. It led to all sorts of divine moments. On one play, Mays chased after a deep fly ball and just as it arrived, his hat began to fall off. He caught the ball with his glove and the cap with his throwing hand. On another play, Mays was running from first to third when his cap came off and fell into the dirt about where the shortstop normally stands. He stopped instantly — Mays’ ability to stop when running at full speed was Barry Sanders-like — scooped up his hat, took off again, and beat the throw by a step.

Giants shortstop Alvin Dark used to chase after him when fly balls were hit out there and pick up Mays’ hat for him. “That kid makes so many sensational catches,” Dark said, “I feel the least I can do in the way of thanks is to pick up his cap when it comes off.”

Then, there was Mays’ most famous play, the most famous catch in baseball history. It was Sept. 29, 1954, Game 1 of the World Series. Cleveland had won 111 games with what people were calling the greatest rotation the game had ever seen — the Tribe was heavily favored to win the Series.

The score was tied 2-2 in the eighth when Cleveland’s Vic Wertz came to the plate with runners on first and second. Wertz was already 3-for-3 on the day. The Giants took out starter Sal Maglie and brought in lefty Don Liddle.

Wertz unloaded on the pitch. The crack of the bat was enough to jolt the sportswriters in the press box. A ball hit that well is almost always a home run. But Wertz had hit the ball to center field, and the game was being played at the Polo Grounds, and that’s why something miraculous happened. Most estimates have Wertz’s blast going 420 feet or more, which means it would have soared over the center-field wall in Cleveland. But the wall at the Polo Grounds was 483 feet away. Wertz’s shot did not even get to the warning track.

Mays had been playing somewhat shallower than normal on the expectation that if Wertz singled, Mays would have to hustle to try and throw out Larry Doby at the plate. Instead, he saw the pitch and — before he even heard the crack of the bat — he turned his back and began running as fast as he could.

That year, 1954, was an incredible one for Mays. He’d missed almost all of the previous two seasons while serving in the Army, and he looked rusty for the first three or four weeks of the season. And then, on May 6, things kicked in. Over the next 24 games, he hit .424 with 13 homers. Later in June, he had a seven-game stretch where he went 15-for-26 with seven home runs.

At the All-Star Break, he had 31 home runs. He was ahead of Babe Ruth’s 60-home run pace. The press kept asking Mays if he thought he had a shot at the record, but at the end of July, he stopped even trying. Durocher had asked him to give up home runs and to, instead, get on base more and spark more rallies.

Here’s how good Willie Mays was: He did just that. He hit only five homers the rest of the season. But he also hit .379/.442/.601 with 16 doubles and seven triples. He led the Giants to another pennant. He would win the MVP award and be named the Associated Press’ male athlete of the year.

“Willie Mays,” Durocher said to the crowd at the Giants’ parade, “is the greatest player I ever laid eyes on.”

When Wertz hit the shot to center field, Mays knew that he would catch it. Nobody else really did. The fans and sportswriters saw how desperately he was running and thought he would never catch up. Even Dark, who had retrieved Mays’ hat after so many great catches, thought there was no way that Mays could catch it, not only because he had so far to run but because he had no angle on it — the ball was hit directly over his head.

But Mays understood the angles of baseball better than anyone in the game’s history. He knew even as he ran under the ball that he would catch it. The question he asked himself in real time was not about catching the ball. It was instead: “How can I prevent Doby from tagging up and scoring all the way from second base?” Doby could still run, and he was aggressive on the bases.

Mays sprinted after the ball and, incredibly, as he got closer to it — with the ball dangling over his head like a lightbulb when a cartoon character has an idea — he began to slow down. He caught the ball over his left shoulder while the No. 24 on his back faced home plate.

And then, he stopped. He just stopped. Even now, as announcer Jack Brickhouse shouted in the moment, it looks like an optical illusion. How can someone just stop like that? It goes against all rules. Then he whirled and threw, “Like some olden statue of a Greek javelin hurler,” in the words of the writer Arnold Hano. He threw the ball with such force (and so blindly) that he fell to the ground.

And the cap fell off his head.

Nobody knows for sure where the throw went: The enduring film only shows him making the throw. But we know that it made Larry Doby stop at third. Doby would not score. The Giants would win the game in extra innings and then sweep the series.

“That was a helluva catch, roomie,” Monte Irvin remembered saying. “I didn’t think you’d make it.”

“I had it all the way,” Mays said.

Some years ago, I came up with something called “The Willie Mays Hall of Fame.” I came up with the idea because I often hear people complain about certain players getting into the Hall of Fame. They complain by saying, “That’s ridiculous. That guy was a good player. But the Hall of Fame is supposed to be for players like Willie Mays!”

Thing is, nobody’s like Willie Mays. If he is the Hall of Fame standard, he’s the only player in the Hall of Fame.

He’s not the only person you could say that about, of course. If the standard for the Hall of Fame was Babe Ruth — meaning that only excellent pitchers who basically invent the home run are eligible — then he would be the only member.

If you want a Young Hall of Fame (only 500-game winners eligible) or a Ryan Hall of Fame (5,700 strikeouts or beat it) or a Cobb Hall of Fame (.366 batting averages and above) or an Aaron Hall of Fame (welcome to all players with 6,800 total bases), yes, those will be one-person museums.

But it’s truer for Willie Mays than it is for anybody else. He could, as O’Neil used to say, beat you every way that you can be beaten. There is no one number or single achievement that you can use to sum him up. For Mays, you need to see everything.

Look here:

• 189 different players hit 400 doubles in their careers. Mays hit 523.

• 162 different players hit 100 triples in their careers. Mays hit 140.

• 111 different players hit 330 homers in their careers. Mays doubled that with 660 homers.

• 239 different players stole 250 bases in their careers. Mays stole 338 bases.

Individually, as you can see, these are difficult but not especially rare achievements — Mays cleared each of them by a substantial amount. Now, though, pull them together. How many players have hit 400 doubles, 100 triples, 330 home runs and stolen 250 bases?

Only one. That’s Willie Mays.

“If he could cook,” Durocher said, “I’d marry him.”

But that’s just the hitting and running. Now think of him roaming in center field. In every town, he would make a catch or a throw — or both — that boggled the mind, a catch that would freeze time for every person in the stands.

“Was that your greatest catch?” reporters would ask him.

“I don’t compare ’em” he would say. “I just catch ’em.”

Now think of his baseball brilliance, the way he could anticipate what was going to happen next, the way he deeply understood every situation and all its possibilities, the way he would take extra bases like they were free mints, the way he would freeze baserunners with a look, the way he would set up pitchers to give him the pitch he wanted.

“There have only been two authentic geniuses in the world,” the actress Tallulah Bankhead said. “William Shakespeare and Willie Mays.”

“Isn’t Willie Mays wonderful?” the first lady of American theater Ethel Barrymore asked.

And then, for me, there’s the biggest part of all. There was the joy. It is true that as the years went on, Mays grew tired and occasionally cranky. The fans didn’t treat him too well when the Giants moved out to San Francisco. Candlestick Park, where he played 889 games, was a cold and windy and desolate place. He, like every black man of his day, endured nastiness and racism. He went through a hard divorce. He had money problems. People tried to take advantage of him.

And he finished his career with the Mets, to the horror of all, by falling down in the outfield.

The only thing Willie Mays could not do on a baseball diamond was stay young forever.

But even to the end, he sparked joy. What do you love most about baseball? Mays did that. To watch him play, to read the stories about how he played, to look at his glorious statistics, to hear what people say about him is to be reminded why we love this odd and ancient game in the first place.

Yes, Willie Mays has always made kids feel like grown-ups and grown-ups feel like kids.

In the end, isn’t that the whole point of baseball?


Eterno Menino
Apr 30, 2012
Eu Sou O Segundo
its barry bonds

It's Barry Bonds for me.

I’m curious as to what makes y’all put Bonds over Mays.

Statistically they’re very similar (Even with Mays missing nearly two full seasons due to military service). But Mays’ numbers came at a time when pitching was better, the ball wasn’t as lively, and the strike zone was expanded. And even though they were both great in the field in their prime Mays played the tougher defensive position.
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