The only time I ever saw Willie Mays play in person he was a broken down shell of the phenomenal player of his prime, marking time at the end of his career of a bench player with the New York Mets. Not having seen the real Mays at the height of his powers is one of the few things that makes me wish I was older than I already am.
Mays turns 80 today, and tributes are pouring in for the legendary of Famer.
This from MercuryNews.com:
Major League Baseball officially bestowed the title of Greatest Living Ballplayer upon Joe DiMaggio in 1969, and he wore that crown for the last 30 years of his life. No such "greatest living ballplayer" label exists for Mays. For one thing, the tag is superfluous -- being introduced as Willie Mays about covers it. For another: Why limit the field to the living?
"I can't believe Babe Ruth was a better player than Willie Mays," Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax once said. "I can't believe he could run as well as Mays, and I can't believe he was any better an outfielder."
ESPN's David Schoenfield listed 10 reasons why Mays is the greatest baseball player ever. I, for one, am not going to argue.
SB Nation's SF Giants website, McCovey Chronicles, is also offering a heart-felt tribute to Mays today.
Happy birthday, Willie!