On this day 51 years ago, Willie Mays or the “Say Hey Kid,” won his second and final MVP award. Mays is considered one of the best five tool players to ever step on the diamond. His second MVP award in 1965 added to what would become an illustrious career as he finished tied with a record of 24 all-star appearances, 12 Gold Glove awards and 660 career home runs.
Despite finishing his career with the New York Mets, Mays is best known for his almost 22 seasons playing for the New York and San Francisco Giants. Mays started his career in 1947 in the Negro League while being in high school, before starting his major league career in 1951.
In his first 12 at bats for the New York Giants, Mays was hitless. On his 13th at bat he, hit a home run off of Warren Spahn, future hall of famer and teammate. Spahn was quoted jokingly saying, “I’ll never forgive myself. We might have gotten rid of Willie forever if I’d only struck him out,” as Mays would go on to hit 659 more home runs, including a solo shot in the bottom off the 16th against Spahn following him throwing 15 scoreless innings.
In his 1965 MVP season, Mays hit career high 52 home runs including the 500th of his career. In that season, Mays was the National League player of the month four times as he hit .363, smashed 17 home runs and drove in 29 runs in the month of August alone, setting the NL record for most home runs in the month of August, since tied by Sammy Sosa.
This season was one of Mays’s finest as it was a major contributing factor in him being named the Sporting News 1960 “Player of the Decade.” In his final season in 1973, he became the oldest regular position player in baseball and became the oldest position player to appear in a World Series game. Six years later, he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, earning 409 out of the possible 432 votes. Along with being one of the best players of all-time, Mays was a fan-favorite and a player who helped revolutionize his position and the game.
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org