The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

 

Say Hey, Kid!

When I was maybe 11 years old, my parents took me to a giant supermarket expo down at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, where none other than Willie Mays was putting in a personal appearance and signing autographs, one of several athletes to be making appearances at the show.

Though too young to have seen him play, I'd already read books about Mays, and heard stories about his legend from my father and grandfather. By then I knew that he'd hit 660 home runs in his career, less than only Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, pretty good company, that he'd made the most famous catch in baseball history, and that he was known as the Say Hey Kid. I took the one Mays card I owned at the time, a 1973 Topps* showing an aged Mays near the end of his career wearing the foreign, pinstriped uniform of the Mets. The card was handed down from my cousin Allan, who bestowed upon me a couple thousand such cards in the 1966-1975 range, including some very valuable ones.



*Though autographed, this is not a scan of card from my collection, merely an image found on Google.

I stood in line for what seemed like an eternity to ask Mr. Mays for his autograph. When I did, he obliged disinterestedly, not even making eye contact or breaking his conversation with whichever adult it was he was talking to, barely nodding an acknowledgment when I thanked him. Honestly, I wasn't terribly bothered, though. It was WILLIE MAYS! Though none of my card-collecting peers believed the autograph was legit – "You probably just got your baby brother to scribble on your card!" — I knew that it was, and I still have that card. It's in a plastic sheet on the front page of a light blue three-ring binder in the closet of my childhood bedroom in Salt Lake City, right next to a few Hank Aarons and a Jim Bouton. The best of my best.

Mays is back in the news, making the rounds thanks to an authorized biography that just came out, Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend by James S. Hirsch, published by Scribner. The 628-page book is something of a coup, marking the first time the 78-year-old legend has ever cooperated with a biographer*. The early reviews haven't been glowing, suggesting the book gets a bit bogged down in the details, but for a player as monumental and enigmatic as Mays, a closer look is merited. Breaking into the majors in 1951, the man battled racism and brought an inimitable style to the majors, becoming arguably the best all-around player the game has ever seen. I received my review copy in the mail last week, and I'm dying to sink my teeth into it. I'll report back when I do.

*update: Allen Barra begs to differ on that score, though Hirsch defends the distinction, and Bruce Weber, who repeated the claim in long piece for the New York Times, backing him up.

In the meantime, on Wednesday night Mays made an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Check out Stewart and the Say Hey Kid talking about his days playing in Trenton (where he started his pro career, hitting .353 in 81 games in 1950), how many homers he might have hit if he hadn't missed two years due to military service, and how he had to room with the son of manager Leo Durocher as a rookie:

Labels: ,


Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]



Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home

Archives

June 2001   July 2001   August 2001   September 2001   October 2001   November 2001   December 2001   January 2002   February 2002   March 2002   April 2002   May 2002   June 2002   July 2002   August 2002   September 2002   October 2002   November 2002   December 2002   January 2003   February 2003   March 2003   April 2003   May 2003   June 2003   July 2003   August 2003   September 2003   October 2003   November 2003   December 2003   January 2004   February 2004   March 2004   April 2004   May 2004   June 2004   July 2004   August 2004   September 2004   October 2004   November 2004   December 2004   January 2005   February 2005   March 2005   April 2005   May 2005   June 2005   July 2005   August 2005   September 2005   October 2005   November 2005   December 2005   January 2006   February 2006   March 2006   April 2006   May 2006   June 2006   July 2006   August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007   March 2007   April 2007   May 2007   June 2007   July 2007   August 2007   September 2007   October 2007   November 2007   December 2007   January 2008   February 2008   March 2008   April 2008   May 2008   June 2008   July 2008   August 2008   September 2008   October 2008   November 2008   December 2008   January 2009   February 2009   March 2009   April 2009   May 2009   June 2009   July 2009   August 2009   September 2009   October 2009   November 2009   December 2009   January 2010   February 2010   March 2010   April 2010   May 2010  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]