Mention "The Say Hey Kid" and you picture a guy flying around the base paths with his hat flying off, or making a spectacular "basket catch" in center field, or clubbing a long home run.
What many people don't know, and it pointed out in this SportsCentury episode, is that Willie Mays was a very cerebral player. He didn't need computers to tell him where to stand or when to take an extra bases. He knew all the opponents and had the situations in his head, being extremely observant. Mays, as pointed out here by Tommy LaSorda, was a 5-point player: he hit for average, hit for power, was a great baserunner, and could field and throw extremely well.
Being an hour long show, there are a lot of comments on Mays, most of them flattering and most knowledgeable baseball writers interviewed agree Mays, playing in other parks other than cold-and-windy Candlestick Park in San Francisco, would have been the all-time home run champ.
Mays is portrayed as kind of a strange guy, a man who on the outside always looked happy because the played the game with such joy, but on the inside, an introvert who often hid his true feelings. His teammates rarely got to know him. With a recently-published book (long after this program was recorded) maybe that has finally changed.
I'm sorry this program did not show the greatest catch Mays ever made in centerfield, but only the famous one from the 1954 series which has been aired 10,000 times over the years. However, I enjoyed learning a few things about Willie that were new to me, such an explanation of why he caught the boll basket-style, and how San Francisco fans first resented him when the Giants moved out West in the late '50s, and the problems he had with a couple of managers.
Overall, you get a warm, good feeling about one of the all-time greats of baseball.
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