Top 100 Mets: #93 - Willie Mays

To many, a discussion of Willie Mays among the top 100 players of all time would be appropriate. His status as one of the greatest New York/San Francisco Giants of all time is not in dispute. To bring him up as one of the greatest New York Mets, would be viewed oddly by many across the land. Outside of New York, his time as a Met is a most minor side note, if remembered at all. But a Met he was, and for this he ranks # 93 on our list of the top 100 Mets.

Willie Howard Mays Jr. was brought into professional baseball by signing with the then New York baseball Giants as an amateur free agent before the 1950 season. He made his Major League debut for the 1951 season at the age of 20, and in 1954 he broke out with the first of what would be a long string of astonishing seasons. He would only produce four of those seasons before New York crowds before the team was moved across the continent. On May 11 of 1972, Mays was traded by the Giants to the Mets for Charlie Williams and $50,000.

For thirteen years, spanning 1954 through 1966, Mays dominated the national league. Over 7555 AB, he hit for average (.315), hit for power (.601 SLG), and got on base (.390 OBP). A list of Willie Mays' awards and achievements goes on like a phone book.

Mays:

100 Was an All-Star every year from 1954 through 1973
101 Rookie of the Year in 1951
102 A two time MVP
103 A Gold Glove winner twelve times
104 A top 6 MVP candidate twelve times
105 Finished in the top 10 in batting average 10 times, including the 1954 batting crown
106 Finished in the top 10 in OBP fifteen times, leading the league twice
107 Finished in the top 10 in SLG fourteen times
108 Ranks 25th all time in career SLG
109 Finished in the top 5 in total bases thirteen times
110 Finished in the top 10 in doubles nine times
111 Finished in the top 10 in triples seven times, leading the league thrice
112 Finished in the top 10 in home runs fifteen times, leading the league four times
113 Ranks third all time in career home runs with 660.
114 Finished in the top 10 in walks twelve times, leading the league in 1971.
115 Ranks 17th all time in career walks
116 Finished in the top 10 in stolen bases eleven times, leading the league four times
117 Finished in the top 10 in times on base thirteen times
118 Ranks 10th all time in career times on base

His impressive career totals are a testament to both his greatness and longevity.

By the time he became a Met, his best days were years behind him. Nevertheless, it must have given the NY faithful quite a thrill to see such a legendary figure in action. He was not without his good times as a Met. 1972, in 195 AB as a Met, he hit just .267. However, his old-ballplayer skills were in evidence, as he posted a .402 OBP anyway. He hit eight home runs and nine doubles, and even one triple. His .466 SLG was 72 points better than the league average.

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

1972

Mets

.267

195

52

8

19

27

1

43

43

.402

.446

1973

Mets

.211

209

44

6

25

24

1

27

47

.211

.303



When the Mets were created to continue the days of National League ball in 1962, they did so with a nod to the proud NL tradition in New York. The Mets intended to continue in the steps of the Giants and former Brooklyn Dodgers. They honor these teams symbolically to this day: The team color blue is a nod to the Dodgers, and orange a nod to the Giants. The Mets interlocking "NY" logo is in the same shape as the former New York Giants logo, but in Mets colors. It is therefore fitting that a piece of Giants history goes on to play his final days for the Mets.

Remembering Willie


...by Steve Usinger

Willie Mays was a broken down ballplayer when Mrs. Joan Payson brought him back East for one final fling in the Big Apple in 1972. She had idolized him in the playing days before Horace Stoneham packed up the Giants franchise and headed West following the 1957 season. It only cost the Mets a never-to-be hurler named Charlie Williams and then they had a living legend on their roster, if only for a few fleeting moments. It allowed Willie to end his career playing in a World Series. For that reason, he is our Greatest Met #93.

In my mind's eye, I still see the play of plays: Mays going back at lightning speed,
Willie Mays
Willie Mays: Willie will always be remembered for making "The Catch".
back to home plate, and making a catch off the bat of Vic Wertz of the Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series. It is still something of an optical illusion. In short, it is the catch by which all others are measured.

In recent years, with the passing of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, Mays along with Stan Musial are probably our greatest living ballplayers.

Personally as a very young man, I was an American League fan…Mickey Mantle was my first hero… In those innocent days before George Steinbrenner and Free Agency, both of which polluted the game in their own unique ways, I followed the Mick and the Yankees.

I saw Willie and the NL as the competition in my Boy Scout days of the Mid-Sixties. As Mickey started going downhill very rapidly following the Yanks last WS appearance of the decade, in 1964, Willie was still going strong. In fact Willie had a magnificent 1965 with 52 homeruns and won his second MVP award.

The final tallies showed Willie putting down a far superior bottom line than the oft-injured Mantle did. He was the first 300-300 man in the history of the game: 300 homeruns and 300 stolen bases. He set the bar for the two generations to follow. His very dear friend Bobby Bonds (recently deceased) was the second in the club, and would subsequently be followed by Andre Dawson. Then Bobby's son, Barry (also Willie's godson), who would become probably the greatest player of the present baseball generation, was the fourth member to join the "club". So Willie's legacy is alive and well.

With the Yankees demise in the last half of the Sixties, and with the coming of Tom Seaver, I switched my allegiance to the upstart NL New York franchise, the Mets. They would eventually take the baseball world by storm in 1969, in winning the World Series.

Three years later, Mays came East and immediately made his mark in the opening days as a Met by belting a grand slam homerun.

Willie had one hour of glory left, when in 1973 the Mets came out of no where to win the NL pennant and advance to the World Series for the second time. Mays was no longer a starter, having been replaced in center field by little known Don Hahn, for the postseason festivities. But he did contribute when called upon, filling in for an ailing Rusty Staub.

Following the seven-game loss to the Oakland A's, Willie called it a career. In addition to the 300-300 contribution, he closed out his career with 3283 hits and 660 homeruns, setting yet another standard. Since his retirement, both Henry Aaron and Eddie Murray have duplicated the 3000 hit, 500 homer feat.

In those two seasons 1972-1973, the New York Mets were touched by greatness, and Willie Mays went out a winner.

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