But the real Willie Mays carved yet another notch in his distinguished and decorated career Wednesday evening. He got to appear on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, and the "Say Hey Kid" managed to crack Stewart up on more than one occasion.
Mays is promoting his new biography "Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend." Okay, he's wearing a Mets cap on the cover of that book. But he did wear a Giants cap in his "Daily Show" appearance.
Mays' life story reaches back to the early days of racially integrated baseball, and Mays discussed that on "The Daily Show" the experience of being the only black player on an all-white team.
"One thing about those (teammates), they were very, very good," Mays told Jon Stewart. "I couldn't go into restaurants and things like that. And they guys said, 'Oh, we're not going to eat.' I said 'Hold it, wait a minute. I want you to go eat. But each one of you bring me a sandwich.'"
"So I ate very, very well," Mays said. "They had one sandwich and I had ten."
Mays lived with the racially-charged taunts of mostly white crowds for years, and discussed how he coped with it. "I didn't let nobody get to me that way," Mays said. "I'd play in a couple towns where they would call me names and different things, and every time I'd hear a name I'd hit it further."
"When I was playing in one town, I hit two home runs one night, two home runs the next night, and a triple," Mays recalled. "The next day, the announcer came on the air and said, 'Ladies and Gentleman... Leave him alone. He's killing us out here.'"
Willie Mays' full appearance on "The Daily Show" can be seen below.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who is happy that Opening Day is coming, if just to get that Cirque de Soleil crap out of AT&T Park.