Born in a small town in Alabama in 1931, Willie Howard Mays, Jr. started his baseball career in the Negro Leagues before breaking into the Major Leagues with the New York Giants in 1951.
That was only four years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, allowing African-American baseball players to play in the Majors. Willie was Rookie of the Year that year and MVP a few years later. He was a key part of the New York Giants World Series winning teams in the ’50s, and MVP again with the San Francisco Giants in the ’60s.
Willie may be best known for his famous basket catch in the 1954 World Series, but through the decades his quiet, determined manner has been an inspiration to baseball players of all races–from Little League to World Series champions. In 2000, the San Francisco Giants made the location of their new ballpark 24 Willie Mays Plaza.
Many of the great players of that generation are gone–including Mays’ star teammate Willie McCovey. But we still get to celebrate The Say Hey Kid.
Happy birthday, Willie Mays!
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