In 1965 my family moved from Indianapolis, Indiana to San Francisco, California. I was seven years old. My Dad started taking me to San Francisco Giants games at Candlestick Park not long after our family settled into our new home. I still remember the first time we walked into Candlestick Park. The grass was so green and the playing field was huge. I had never been to a big league ball park and this would be my first major league ball game.
It was at this point in my life I became a huge Willie Mays fan. My Dad told me all about Mays. By 1965 Willie was a super star, and had been for many years. Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, Batting Champion, Home Run Champion, Mays had done it all. In fact, in 1965 Willie Mays hit a career high 52 home runs and won his second MVP award. But the thing I remember most about Willie was the way he played center field. His mad dashes in all directions to snag fly balls and line drives, his leaping catches over the fence to rob hitters of home runs, and his famous basket catches. Willie always seemed to be in motion. Hustling this way and that. With every ball that was hit to the outfield, there was Mays running to make the grab.
After watching Willie’s amazing defensive feats I decided that when I played baseball I wanted to be a center fielder, just like Mays. So when I joined the San Francisco Bay Area Cub Scouts I quickly tried out for the baseball team and became the starting center fielder. My favorite part of those Cub Scout games was running as fast as I could to try to catch any ball hit in my direction. There is nothing like that youthful feeling you get when running in the lush green grass and jumping and sliding to catch a line drive. With the help of my Dad I gladly practiced my defensive skills constantly. My inspiration to play baseball was instilled by my father, and later because of Willie Mays.
I continued to play baseball till my junior year in high school. By then I was becoming more interested in other things, plus most of the guys on the team were twice my size and could hit the ball twice as far as I could. And I didn’t like sitting on the bench. But I remained a big baseball fan, and to this day Willie Mays is still my favorite baseball player.
Much has been written about Willie Mays, but unless you actually saw him play a baseball game it is hard to describe the excitement Willie introduced to the game. His speed in the outfield and on base paths is legendary, and being able to watch him play baseball in person was a great thrill for me. I was lucky to be able to watch Willie Mays play baseball at Candlestick Park from 1965 to 1971. I owe that to my Dad. To this day I have never seen a professional baseball player match Mays in pure excitement on a ball field. Maybe it was Willie’s enthusiasm for the game. He hustled on every play. Mays really seemed to enjoy playing every game, which is more than I can say for many of today’s rich and coddled ball players. I wonder how many highlight reels are out there that could be put together to do a film showing Willie Mays playing the game? Not a film about Willie’s life, but an action documentary of his extraordinary playing days. Below is something that was cobbled together and put on YouTube. It includes some action highlights of Willie. But perhaps someone should really take the time to do an extensive action film on the greatest and most exciting baseball player to ever put on a major league uniform…Willie Mays!
Here are some great Life Magazine photographs of Willie Mays:
1971 Strat-O-Matic Baseball Replay Update:
May 14, 1971 – The San Francisco Giants defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers last night 3-2 at Candlestick Park. Willie McCovey hit a walk off solo home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to send the Giants to their third straight victory. Rich Robertson gained his first win of the season by pitching one inning of scoreless relief. Jose Pena was the losing pitcher for the Dodgers. This pitching duel included ten pitchers, five pitchers for each team. The Giants and Dodgers now hook up for two more games in the series. Here are the current standing for my Start-O-Matic baseball replay of the San Francisco Giants 1971 season:
And here are the current Giants batting and pitching statistics:
I still have some Strat-O-Matic baseball cards for sale in my e-store. Also, I’m still looking for a 1971 SOM Ike Brown of the Tigers, if you want to trade.
Vintage Baseball Card Of The Week:
Willie Mays of course! Below is one of my favorite Willie Mays baseball cards. It’s from the 1962 Topps set. 1962 is the year the Giants won the National League pennant and then lost to the Yankees in the World Series. This was the Series that featured a dramatic ending in Game 7. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and Willie Mays on second base representing the winning run and a World Series victory for San Francisco, Willie McCovey hit a screeching line drive to Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson to end the threat, and thus ended the World Series:
And here is one of my favorite baseball cards, from the 1964 Topps set, showing two of the best baseball players ever, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron:
On This Day In 1953:
The Milwaukee Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers were tied for first place in the National League. The Dodgers would end the season 105-49, 13 games ahead of the second place Braves. But Brooklyn would go on to lose to the New York Yankees 4-2 in the 1953 World Series.
Speaking of 1953. Below is an 8mm home movie recorded in the Fall of 1953, in New York City. I digitized the film and added some music. I like all the cool neon signs: