Willie Mays played two years with Birmingham of the Negro Leagues before he signed with the New York Giants, and it would not take long before the “Say Hey Kid” became the face of the franchise.
Mays could do it all. When they speak of five-tool baseball players, Mays is the literal definition. He had it all. Mays had the power, the speed, the glove, the arm, and the average. There was nothing that he could not do, and that wasn't the case just for a year or two; Mays had those skills for most of his career. Mays could very well be the most complete baseball player that ever lived.
Debuting for the Giants in 1951, Mays won the Rookie of the Year and was the spark plug for the team that shocked the world by coming from 13.5 Games behind in August to win the Pennant. New York didn’t win the World Series, but they had a star on the rise, but military service kept him out of 1953 and most of 1952. When he returned, he staked a claim as baseball’s top dog.
Mays won the Batting Title, 1954 MVP, and led New York to a World Series Championship. Although 1954 was his only World Series win, his individual greatness was cemented in every facet of the sport. He went to his first All-Star Game and would be invited every year until 1971.
Mays had the perfect eye at the plate. He batted over .300 nine times and drew Walks, netting an OBP over .400 five times and winning two OBP Titles. The Power game with Mays was also one of the best ever. Mays won four Home Run Titles, blasting 646 of 600 career Home Runs with the Giants. Mays never won an RBI Title but had at least 100 in a season ten times with 1,909 overall as a Giant. An MVP again in 1965, Mays had six more top-five MVP finishes.
Speed was another one of Mays's calling cards. He led the NL in Stolen Bases four years in a row (1956-59) with 336 as a Giant. Mays was also one of the game's top defensive players, having not only made the 1954 over-the-head catch in Game 1 of the World Series but continuing to dominate on the field. He led the NL in Defensive bWAR in 1954 and was in the top ten seven other times. He also was a three-time leader in Total Zone Runs.
Mays was traded to the New York Mets during the 1972 Season, where he unceremoniously ended his career, though he did help them win the 1973 Pennant. He is still the all-time Giants leader in bWAR (154.5), Offensive bWAR (134.8), Runs Scored (2,011), Hits (3,187), and Home Runs (646).
Mays was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year on the ballot. San Francisco retired his number 24 in 1972 while he was still an active player, and he was later an inaugural member of the Giants Wall of Fame in 2008.
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