MLB Legacies: Willie Mays

Willie Mays is one of the greatest players in MLB history. He was inducted into the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, receiving 94.7% of the vote in his first year of eligibility. 

Mays was a record breaker, a legend in his time, and a superstar athlete. Moreover, Mays had a cultural impact on the American people and served as an ambassador for the game of baseball well into his retirement.

To understand the latest MLB betting odds based on future projections for players in upcoming games, it helps to be familiar with the history of baseball, including legends such as Mays and their baseball legacy.

Early Career

Willie Mays began his professional career in 1948 with the Birmingham Black Barons, playing on weekends as he joined the team at the young age of 16. Mays helped the Black Barons reach the 1948 Negro World Series. Although they did not win the series, Mays was building a reputation for his impressive fielding and base running skills.

Once he graduated high school in 1950, Mays was signed by the New York Giants baseball organization and sent to the minor leagues. After an amazing start to the 1951 season with Triple-A Minneapolis Millers where he hit .477 in 35 games, the Giants called him up to the big leagues.

Mays started off slow with the Giants, but his defense earned him praise and his offense eventually picked up. He helped the Giants reach the World Series and won the National League Rookie of the Year award.

1954 - A Year Of Triumph

Mays was drafted into the U.S. Army early in the 1952 season, serving for two years. He returned to the Giants in 1954 during spring training and began the season by hitting a home run on Opening Day. He was named to the NL All-Star team and won the NL MVP award with a league-best .345 average and 41 home runs. He led the Giants to a World Series championship over the Cleveland Indians, and his over-the-shoulder catch of a fly ball in Game 1 of the series still stands as one of the most famous moments in MLB history.

The following year, Mays led the NL in home runs with 55. He became a hero in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and became known as the "Say Hey Kid".

Mays vs Rigney

In 1956, Rigney took over as manager of the Giants, and Mays had trouble getting along with his new boss. Rigney would publicly criticize Mays and fine him for not running out pop flies.

The following year, Rigney showed more trust in Mays and their relationship improved. In 1957, Mays won the first of 12 consecutive Gold Glove awards.

Moving To San Francisco

In 1958 the Giants moved to San Francisco. It took a few years for the West Coast fans to fully accept Mays, as the fans frequently booed him during his first four seasons in San Fran. Some have speculated that the negative reaction from the crowd was based on comparisons with Joe DiMaggio, the Yankees legend who grew up in the Bay Area. Others guessed that the scorn was due to Mays being a quiet man who kept to himself.

However, in 1962 the fans began to warm up to Mays as he led the Giants in eight offensive categories and led the team to the World Series, making his final appearance with the Giants. In 1965, Mays won his second National League MVP award.

In 1972, Mays was traded to the New York Mets, coming full circle as he returned to the city where his major league career began. The following season, he helped the Mets reach the World Series, then retired.

Cultural Impact

The years that Mays spent playing in New York for the Giants and Mets made him an icon in Harlem. He was known to join kids in neighborhood stickball games during his early years with the Giants.

Mays received some criticism during his career for not speaking out against racism and other social injustice. Instead, Mays chose to use his job as a professional baseball player to serve as a positive role model for others.

Final Thoughts

Willie Mays was the primary subject in plenty of MLB news and rumors during his career. However, he managed to stay positive while facing adversity and was able to keep a smile on his face. 

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