Days Gone By - stories from the past

Alabama native and baseball great Willie Mays gives back to his community of Fairfield

Willie Mays Park in Fairfield, Alabama

Willie mays speaking in Willie mays parkWillie Mays speaking in Fairfield’s Willy Mays Park. Image courtesy of blog.al.com


Many may have seen Willie Mays Park in Fairfield, AL, but who is Willie Mays, the man the park is named after?

Willie Mays – The Say Hey Kid!

Mays in his Giants uniform. Image courtesy of Birmingham Public Library ArchivesMays in his Giants uniform. Image courtesy of Birmingham Public Library Archives

Willie Mays, born 1931, is a former Major League Baseball player, considered to be one of the best baseball players of all time.

One of the greatest center fielders of all time, an event Willie Mays is famous for is “The Catch.” During Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, the New York Giants were playing against the Cleveland Indians. The venue was Polo Grounds in New York, and at the top of the 8th inning, the score was tied 2-2.

The Catch

Vic Wertz, batting for the Indians, hit the ball 420 feet into deep center field, and Mays caught the ball while on the run, right by the warning track. Immediately after catching the ball, Mays turned and threw it back, which prevented Dolby, the runner who was on second, from getting a home run. This kept the game tied at 2-2 for that inning, and the Giants eventually won the match and the whole series.

Mays making the famous catch. Image courtesy of WikipediaMays making the famous catch. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

 His Life

Early Life

Willie Mays was born in Westfield, Alabama in 1931. His father, Willie Mays Sr., played baseball for the Negro League and his mother, Annie Satterwhite, was an accomplished sprinter. While his parents never married, their athleticism meant Mays would find himself taking on athletic traits.

At the age of 10, Mays played for the Birmingham Industrial League. While he was not the best hitter, he was tremendously talented at running, throwing, and fielding.

High School and Early CareerMays in his Black Barons uniform. Image courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library Archives.Mays in his Black Barons uniform. Image courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library Archives

In 1947, at the age of 16, he joined the Birmingham Black Barons, which began his professional baseball career. Mays would continue to pursue his high school diploma while playing for the Black Barons.

Mays in high school graduation cap and gown. Image courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library Archives.Mays in high school graduation cap and gown. Image courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library Archives

Professional CareerMays in the Millers’ clubhouse. Image courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library Archives.Mays in the Millers’ clubhouse. Image courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library Archives

Mays played for the Minneapolis Millers in 1951. That same year, after showing consistent excellence with the Millers, Mays was called to play for the Giants. It was that year that he would make his famous catch with the Giants. Mays began to receive fame and attention, and played with the Giants until 1952, when he was drafted into the Korean War by the United States Military.

Mays in 1954. Image courtesy of WikipediaMays in 1954. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

When he returned to baseball in 1954, he played for the New York Giants until 1957, until the team relocated and became the San Francisco Giants. Mays would continue to play for the new Giants until 1972. He would finally play for the New York Mets until 1973, and then retire as the only Major League Player to have hit a home run in every inning possible, with many additional honors and accolades.

Baseball Managers (Baseball In America) Hardcover – March 3, 1999

Post-retirement

Mays would continue to be involved with baseball after his retirement. He coached the Mets part-time, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.

He would also continue to appear as a public personality, something Mays still does to this day.

Mays with former United States President George W. Bush, Jr. Image courtesy of WikipediaMays with former United States President George W. Bush, Jr. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

As for Willie Mays Park in Fairfield, Coca-Cola has announced that, along with the Say Hey Foundation, Willie Mays’ charity organization, they will be pledging $15,000 to the restoration of the ballpark in Mays’ hometown.


willie mays laughing
Mays in 2015. Image courtesy of desertsun.com

 

SOURCES

  1. Wikipedia.org
  2. Wikipedia.org – Willie Mays
  3. Encyclopedia  of Alabama
  4. Achievement

Amazon.com – Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices

Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend

Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend


Considered to be “as monumental—and enigmatic—a legend as American sport has ever seen” (Sports Illustrated), Willie Mays is arguably the greatest player in baseball history, still revered for the joy and passion he brought to the game. Mays began as a teenage phenom in the Negro Leagues, became a cult hero in New York, and was the headliner in Major League Baseball’s bold expansion to California. With 3,383 hits, 660 home runs, and 338 stolen bases, he was a blend of power, speed and stylistic bravado that fans had never seen before. Now, in the first biography authorized by and written with the cooperation of Willie Mays, James Hirsch reveals the man behind the player.

 

Willie is perhaps best known for “The Catch”—his breathtaking over-the-shoulder grab in the 1954 World Series. It is a classic visual that represents a transcendent figure who ushered in a new era of baseball, received standing ovations around the globe, and—during the turbulent civil rights era—advocated understanding and reconciliation. However, the years of racial attacks, the stress of celebrity, and the mental and physical demands of the game also took a toll. Meticulously researched and drawing on lengthy interviews with Mays, as well as with close friends, family, and teammates,

Hirsch presents a complex portrait of one of America’s most significant cultural icons.

List Price: $30.00 USD
New From: $7.69 USD In Stock

Tags:

6 comments

  1. Tommie Morrison

    WE HAVE SO MANY WONDERFUL PEOPLE IN ALABAMA.

  2. Teresa Kilburn Loggins

    I sorta grew up in Fairfield. Lived in Hueytown. But my grandmother lived in Fairfield, on Carnegi St. Went to the movies there. Ate at Lochemy’s’ Rest., our drug store was Steves’ Rexall. Was born at Lloyd Nolan Hosp. My Dad and his siblings graduated from Fairfield High School. Later on, my mother in law bought a house in Fairfield. Good memories.

  3. Bobby King

    One of the best ever.

  4. Grew up on Parkway by the park. I had my hair cut at Stocks Barber shop where Willie Mays shine shoes sometimes. I played baseball at the main park where I was on the team that won 26 straight games. I’m sure the record still holds today. The city was somthing like Mayberry where all mothers looked out for the kids. The town being more pictorist than any other town around. I grew up and worked at the 5 and dime and my family ran a service station on commerence ave opesite Pucketts Hardware.

  5. My name is Willie Danny Bice and I was born in Lloyd Noland Hospitial 10-19-1950, I worked for H&H Drug Store and delivered medicine to Willie Mays mother when I was 16, I felt privalaged! I lived on Parkway and played Little League baseball.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *