Is he the greatest all-around player in baseball history? I think you can make the case. He had 660 home runs in the non-steroid era, 3,283 hits, a career batting average of .302, and he made the All-Star team a remarkable 24 times. This, despite missing most of two seasons during his prime after being drafted into the Army.
And all that doesn’t even take into account his amazing fielding prowess in center field. He won the Gold Glove twelve times, and anyone who follows baseball knows about “The Catch.” In the eighth inning of Game One of the 1954 World Series, Vic Wertz of the Cleveland Indians hit a drive to deep center field. Mays made a running catch over his shoulder without really looking back, preventing two runs from scoring, and keeping the New York Giants in a game they would eventually win in the 10th inning. The Giants went on to win the Series, the only title Mays won.
He was named Rookie of the Year in 1951, and won the MVP honor twice (1954, 1965). He spent most of his career with the New York and San Francisco Giants, finishing with a brief stint as a New York Met. Interestingly, the Braves scouted Mays before he signed a Major League contract, but declined to sign him. Can you imagine – we could have seen an outfield with Mays in center field and Hank Aaron (Great American Things, October 29, 2009) in right field!
No one knows how Mays got his nickname, the “Say Hey Kid.” We do know that his accomplishments got him named as the “Player of the Decade” for the 1960s by the Sporting News, and that he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (Great American Things, March 26, 2010) on the first ballot…