Hall of Famer Willie Mays turned 85 on Friday. Let’s remember just how awesome the Say Hey Kid really was at baseball.
Mays made his Major League debut for the New York Giants nearly 65 years ago (May 25, 1951) with an 0-for-5 performance against the Philadelphia Phillies. His first career hit came three days later, a solo home run off Hall of Famer Warren Spahn of the Boston Braves at the Polo Grounds.
Mays took home National League Rookie of the Year honors that year behind his 127 hits and 20 home runs in 121 games for the NL champs.
The hits, homers and award were a sign of great things to come for the Giants slugger.
Over the course of a 22-year, 2,992-game career, Mays amassed 3,283 hits, which currently ranks 11th in MLB history. Mays ranked seventh behind Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker, Hank Aaron, Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins after his final season in 1973.
Mays’ 660 home runs rank fifth all time behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Alex Rodriguez. Mays accounted for four of the top-25 home run seasons after he hit a career-high 52 long balls in 1965. Ruth was the only player who appeared more times atop the single-season home run list at that time (six top-25 seasons).
After winning the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1951, Mays was selected to 20 All-Star teams, won two NL Most Valuable Player awards and won 12 straight Gold Gloves from 1957-68. He finished in the top-10 in the MVP voting 12 times in 13 seasons from 1954-66. The one season Mays finished outside the top 10 in that 13-year stretch was 1956 (17th place). He batted .296 with 101 runs, 36 home runs, 84 runs batted in and 40 stolen bases that season. It was the first 30/40 season in MLB history.
Happy 85th birthday to one of the all-time greats.