Saturday, June 21, 2014

Last piece of a Giant puzzle


Willie Mays' 1964 Topps Giant card is the last one I needed to complete the set. Not surprisingly it was the most expensive (it's a short print as well as being, well, Willie Mays). It didn't quite cost me as much as the rest of the set combined but it was close.

Well worth it though. Love the card. It's obviously a spring training facility behind Willie. If Mays was wearing a home uni I'd know it was Phoenix since the Giants trained there for many years until they switched to Scottsdale in the early 1980s. So it could be any of the Cactus League stadiums of the era.

As for Willie Mays himself.... I'll steal Bum Phillips' line about Earl Campbell: "He may not be in a class all by himself, but it don't take long to call the roll."

Here is a list of Willie Mays' notable achievements that was published on his Baseball Reference Bullpen page:

  • 1951 NL Rookie of the Year Award
  • 20-time NL All-Star (1954-1973)
  • 2-time NL MVP (1954 & 1965)
  • 1963 All-Star Game MVP
  • 1968 All-Star Game MVP
  • 12-time Gold Glove Winner (1957/ML-CF, 1958-1960/NL-CF & 1961-1968/NL-OF)
  • NL Batting Average Leader (1954)
  • 2-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1965 & 1971)
  • 5-time NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1954, 1955, 1957, 1964 & 1965)
  • 5-time NL OPS Leader (1954, 1955, 1958, 1964 & 1965)
  • 2-time NL Runs Scored Leader (1958-1961)
  • NL Hits Leader (1960)
  • 3-time NL Total Bases Leader (1955, 1962 & 1965)
  • 3-time NL Triples Leader (1954, 1955 & 1957)
  • 4-time NL Home Runs Leader (1955, 1962, 1964 & 1965)
  • NL Bases on Balls Leader (1971)
  • 4-time NL Stolen Bases Leader (1956-1959)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 17 (1951, 1954-1968 & 1970)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 11 (1954-1957, 1959 & 1961-1966)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 6 (1954, 1955, 1961, 1962, 1964 & 1965)
  • 50-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1955 & 1965)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 10 (1954, 1955 & 1959-1966)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 12 (1954-1965)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (1958)
  • Won a World Series with the New York Giants in 1954
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1979

 There is simply nothing Mays couldn't do on a baseball field. Is he the best player I've ever seen? I dunno, maybe. And I say that despite the fact that his batting averages were slipping a bit during the times I was watching. I wouldn't argue with anyone who said he was the most talented, or the most exciting.  I'll tell you one thing, there was a real 'buzz' in the air when I went to Shea to watch the Giants with my buddy and his father, both huge fans of Mays and the Giants.The closest player I've seen to Mays skills-wise was Ken Griffey Jr. during his Seattle days. Mickey Mantle could do everything as well but he lost so much time to injuries.

As many times as I saw Mays I can't recall any one special moment about his play. He was just Willie Mays, hitting homers and stealing bases and tracking down every fly. That's probably enough.