Say Hey! It's Wille Mays' Birthday

We interrupt your celebration of the Giants actually surpassing .500 with yesterday's win over the Cubbies to reflect on the San Francisco Giants Hall of Famer Wille Mays. The "Say Hey Kid", whose statue out front of AT&T Park stands on a street named after him where the Giants play every home game, turns 78 today. Happy Birthday, Willie Mays, and we're thrilled to have you as part of the Giants' history and organization.

Willie Mays was a twenty -- twenty! -- time All-Star who won twelve Gold Gloves and a World Series chapionship in 1954. He hit 660 runs, good for fourth on the all-time list, and hit .302 lifetime over twenty-two seasons. His once-in-a-lifetime combination of hitting and defensive dominance got Mays named by the Sporting News as "Player of the Decade" for the 1960's.

Mays is also remembered for making one of the single most iconic plays in the history of the sport. In the 1954 World Series, when they were still the New York Giants, Cleveland Indian Vic Wertz blasted a warning track bomb with two Indians already on base. Willie Mays made a stellar running backwards grab right at the center field wall that people still talk about today, then fired a cannon throw infield so hard that Mays actually fell over while throwing. But the throw made it all the way in on the mark, and the two Indians were held on base. The tie game was maintained, and the Giants won it in the 10th -- and Willie Mays scored the winning run.

Mays remains a part of the Giants organization, where he serves as a special assistant to the team president. And of course, he's Barry Bonds' godfather, having been a longtime friend and teammate of Barry's pop Bobby Bonds.

I'm from a generation where I never got to see Mays play, so I'm happy to see an eyewitness account of Mays in today's Santa Rosa Press Democrat on Robert Rubino's Old School blog. "I saw Willie Mays catch a flyball in center field," writes Rubino, " And then throw a perfect strike to the catcher to get the wonderfully named Rip Repulski, who had tagged up from third base, sliding into home. Bang-bang. The umpire signals out. The crowd roared."

Sounds like great memories. Thanks for providing them, Willie Mays, and happy birthday.

Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who might want to change his name to Rip Repulski.

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