Willie Howard Mays, Jr. is a widely respected retired American baseball player, born on May 6, 1931 in Westfield, Alabama. He played almost 22 seasons in the American Major League Baseball (MLB) with the New York/San Francisco Giants, finishing off his career at New York Mets in the early 1970s. He would play as an aggressive and stealth central fielder. With his tenacity, tremendous catching ability and home run scores, a man like Mays truly deserved to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (1979). In his 22 year long career as a professional baseball player, Mays was a recipient of countless trophies and accolades.
Willie Mays was born in to a family of sports, with his father being a professional baseball player and his mother occasionally playing basketball. He took up baseball at an early age, playing catch with his father at age 5. Mays graduated from Fairfield Industrial High School in 1950, having played baseball and football there. Even at such an early age, his average point-record in school for baseball was 17.
In 1947, Mays began playing in the Negro Leagues with the Chattanooga Choo-Choos, spending a short time there after which he returned to his home state to play with the Birmingham Black Barons. He led them to the 1948 World Series, and hit a decent .262 for that season. His performance was noticed by a number of scouts for different Major League teams including the Boston Braves. Narrowly missing the deal with them, Willie Mays instead joined the New York Giants and their class B affiliate in New Jersey. He spent some time in the Minor Leagues with the Minneapolis Millers, before getting a message to move to Harlem, New York for his first official game for the New York Giants.
His first few games with the New York Giants were slow, as he only managed to hit a single home run in seven games. After returning from military duty in 1954, he managed a League-high .345 with 41 home runs on way to securing the Most Valuable Player award. His defensive ability also developed in the next few seasons, displaying his keenness to be an All-Rounder. In the 1955 season, he hit 51 home runs, one of the highest figures ever seen. After the New York Giants moved to San Francisco in 1957, many players had a difficult time adjusting to life on the other side of the country. Mays, however, still managed to get the team close to a World Series triumph in 1962. In 1965, he earned his second Most Valuable Player award after hitting 52 home runs.
Mays has often been called the greatest all-rounding baseball player of all time, having been elected to The Sporting News’ ‘List of 100 Greatest Baseball Players’. He is also one of very few living players to be elected for the Major League Baseball All-Century team. In a glorious career spanning over 2 decades, Mays won two National League Most Valuable Player awards and is known to play at least 24 All-Star games. His career ended with a record 660 home runs, which is placed fifth in the all-time list. Beginning in 1957, Mays won the Golden Glove award twelve times. Willie Mays retired at the New York Mets with a career high 3,283 hits and 2,062 runs scored.