|Willie Mays calms the situation in the Marichal/Roseboro incident, August 22, 1965.|
Friday, May 6, 2011
Willie Mays Played the Game the Way It Should Be Played
So Willie turned 80 today. How can you not like the Say Hey kid? He played with a boyish enthusiasm. He hustled all the time. He never dogged it. All those years playing in miserable Candlestick Park and he never made excuses. He just pounded the ball there, played outstanding defense and carried his team for years. If Willie had played those prime years of his in a ballpark that was simply neutral, he would have shattered Babe Ruth's home run record.
I still remember him rounding the bases after bumping off his helmet and speeding himself to the bags hatless . He’d turn singles into doubles, doubles into triples. He wasn’t a big man, but his power was the best in the game during a pitching dominant era in the 60s.
He stopped the Roseboro/Marichal brawl. He simply stepped forward and attended to John Roseboro and that act was what calmed tempers and stopped the mayhem. Lou Johnson said it best, “They can thank Mays that there wasn’t a real riot out there, if it wasn’t for Willie Mays it could have been a lot worse. Willie did a hell of a job stopping the battle.”
Mays had that presence to stand up and say, “that’s enough boys, the fight is over,” and it was be over.
Revered to this day and respected in all baseball circles, the only issue I have with Mays is his ridiculous statements in which he defends his godson, Barry Bonds. But he’s loyal to him, and there is something to say for that. There is honor in that stance he has taken.
I ran into Willie once. I was in San Francisco Airport, where I have worked for the better part of the last 15 years. As I was walking towards an elevator in the parking garage I overheard a stranger say, “I think that was Willie Mays getting in the elevator.” So I rushed to it, just before the door closed and I made it inside. Sure enough, there was Willie, inside the elevator wearing a Bally’s Casino jacket. I was going up only one floor, I pushed the button and stood there in silence. What could I say? I was standing next to the greatest ballplayer ever to play the game. The bell chimed, it was my floor, and the door opened, I turned to leave, looked at the man and said the only thing that came to my mind, “say hey!” He smiled and patted me on my shoulder as I walked out. That was it.
Happy birthday Willie!