Tag: Willie Mays

Willie Mays: An Appreciation


Wednesday was baseball great Willie Mays’ 89th birthday and I thought I’d post a brief appreciation of his career. I’ve been a baseball fan almost all my life, and since I grew up in northern California and started following baseball circa 1960, the Giants were my favorite team and I gravitated quickly to their best player Willie Mays.

Willie Howard Mays was born on May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama. Willie was a precocious athlete. His father was a semi-pro ballplayer, playing for a company team in the local league made up from coal and steel companies in the area. By the time he was a teenager, young Mays was on his father’s team playing against grown men twice his age. And, although he played on his high school football, basketball and baseball teams, he began his professional baseball career in 1947 at age 16 joining the Chattanooga Choo Choos, who were essentially a farm team for the Negro League Birmingham Black Barons, a team he would join within a year. The Black Barons manager, Piper Davis would become a mentor to Willie. He worked with the young ballplayer on his weaknesses as a player and required that he finish high school. Since the Dodgers had broken the color line with Jackie Robinson in 1947, major league scouts from those teams willing to add black ballplayers to their roster began scouring the Negro Leagues for major league talent and it didn’t take them long to stumble across Mays who had helped the Black Barons to the Negro League World Series in 1948 mainly with his great defensive play.