Farewell, Say Hey Kid!

Growing up in NJ in the early 1970s, my first meaningful memory of Willie Mays was when he was acquired by my favorite team, the NY Mets in May of 1972 for pitching prospect Charlie Williams and 50,000 in cash.

Even though I hadn’t gotten a chance to see Mays play in his prime, I knew from talking to some of the older folks what a special player and exceptional talent he was. I knew that age had caught up with him and that he was no longer that otherworldly player, but it was still a thrill to have him playing in Queens for my favorite team wearing his number 24 on a Mets uniform. It was a thrill that was shared with every living Mets fan. It reignited the passion that us fans had for the Mets after a couple of disappointing seasons and the tragic death of manager Gil Hodges, and almost certainly, his presence in the clubhouse and on the field reignited the passion of his teammates as well.

Despite not having the skills he once had, Willie had plenty of big moments with the Mets.

His contributions helped lead the Mets back to the World Series in 1973 under manager Yogi Berra. In that series, they held a 3 games to 2 lead over the defending champion Athletics before ultimately falling to them in 7 games

Wille retired after the ’73 season. The Mets would not return to the post-season for 13 years.

As time went on, I learned more about when an extraordinary player he was and what an extraordinary personality he had. Willie was beloved by fans of baseball in a way that few before or since have been.

I’m sure it would have been a thrill to see him patrol CF in the Polo Grounds or to see him launch tape measure HRs with his effortless swing or to see him glide around the bases easily scoring from first on a ball hit into the gap.  These are memories that I’m sure many folks reading this have first-hand.

We sadly lost one of the all-time greats last month who was indisputably the greatest living ballplayer up until then.

With Willie’s passing, a debatable question is who that distinction has been passed to now.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well as any memories of Willie Mays that you’d like to share.

Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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Michael Roberts
7 days ago

All of us kids in the ‘60s revered Mays. Getting a Mays card was special then, and even more so now considering you are shelling out quite a few bucks for it. Mays always had great APBA cards too – he had the “F” speed rating and “Outfielder (3)”, which was the highest defensive rating. Just a terrific player who could beat you in the field, on the bases, and in the batters box. Wasn’t it Mays who broke down the game this way, “They throw it, I hit it. They hit it, I catch it.”?

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