Willie Mays: An All-Star for all time

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2014 - 6:44 AM

The Midsummer Classic was made for Willie Mays, who at age 83 remains passionate about baseball’s showcase.

Willie Mays is 83 now, with his vision impaired by glaucoma, yet you still cannot slip a fast one past him without having it turned around.

Mays was sitting in his favorite chair in the Say Hey Suite, his domain in AT&T Park, the magnificent home of the San Francisco Giants, Willie’s town and team for 14 of his 22 big-league seasons.

A visitor from Minneapolis was asking Mays to validate the theory that the roster the National League brought to Minnesota for the 1965 All-Star Game was the greatest assembly of talent on one baseball team in history.

There were a dozen Hall of Famers, plus Pete Rose, on the 25-player squad. There was an outfield of Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Billy Williams … a backup outfield.

Best ever, right, Mr. Mays?

“That was a great team in ’65, but it wasn’t much different than the rest of the teams we sent to the All-Star Game during that time,” Mays said. “The National League was great every year.”

Then, the Say Hey Kid leaned forward slightly in his chair and said:

“We had so many 3 and 4 hitters on those teams, [manager] Walter Alston came to me before an All-Star Game and said, ‘Willie, I can’t make out a lineup. I don’t have a leadoff hitter.’

“I said, ‘I’ll write out a lineup.’ I took the card, put myself at the top, wrote in Hank [Aaron] and Ernie [Banks] in the middle and said to Walter, ‘I’ll get us off to a good start.’ ”

This was on July 11, 1960, in Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium. It was during the four-year period (1959-62) when there were two All-Star Games played per summer to fund a players’ pension plan.

Mays had played in his first All-Star Game in 1954. He made his first start in 1957. The National League was 3-4 against the American League in Willie’s first seven All-Star Games.

Then, Mays wrote himself at the top of the lineup, and fulfilled his vow to Alston, the manager of the rival Dodgers, to get the National Leaguers off to a good start.

Willie led off with a triple against AL starter Bill Monbouquette. The National League scored three runs in the first and won the game 5-3.

Mays would be a fixture on the National League team through 1973. From his leadoff triple to a final pinch-hitting appearance (as a member of the New York Mets) in ’73, the NL went 14-2-1 in All-Star Games.

Overall, from Game 1 in 1960 through the NL’s victory at the Metrodome in 1985, the Nationals were 25-3-1 in All-Star Games.

“That [1965] All-Star Game you’re talking about in Minnesota … I got us off to a good start in that game, too,” said the Say Hey Kid. “I led off with a home run against that guy from Baltimore.”

Milt Pappas. “That was him,” Mays said.

Mays also was the finisher for the NL that afternoon in Bloomington, working his way around the bases in the seventh inning to score the tiebreaking run in a 6-5 victory.

  • related content

  • Souhan: Baseball's All-Star Game stands out above others

    Sunday July 13, 2014

    There’s texture to the Midsummer Classic; that’s what makes the game timeless as it comes to Target Field for the 85th edition.

  • Target Field: A star for the All-Stars

    Thursday July 17, 2014

    Target Field, much loved by those who know it, will take a national bow

  • Willie Mays' Minneapolis days were brief — but glorious

    Sunday July 13, 2014

    The Minneapolis Millers left the Twin Cities on May 19, 1951, to start a road trip in Milwaukee. Willie Mays,...

  • “It was tough to make the All-Star team, and we were excited to be in the game. Why would a manager want to take me or Aaron or Clemente out of the game? He wanted to win.”Willie Mays, shown above in May at AT&T Park in San Francisco when the Twins played the Giants.

  • Willie Mays arrived at San Francisco’s AT&T Park with his dog, Giant, for a May 25 Giants game against the Twins.

  • Giants fans gathered in front Major league hall of fame player Willie Mays statue at AT&T Park Sunday May 25, 2014 in San Francisco ,CA. ] Mays a former New York and San Francisco Giants centerfield was elected to the Baseball Hall of Frame in 1979. Jerry Holt Jerry.holt@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland - LP: T. House 1 FINAL
Detroit - WP: A. Simon 4
Chicago Cubs 0 Postponed
Cincinnati 0
Kansas City 0 Postponed
Chicago WSox 0
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 9 FINAL
Oakland - LP: K. Graveman 3
NY Mets - WP: M. Harvey 8 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Sabathia 2
Washington - LP: S. Strasburg 0 FINAL
Miami - WP: T. Koehler 8
Toronto - LP: B. Cecil 2 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: E. Frieri 4
Atlanta - WP: S. Miller 5 FINAL
Philadelphia - LP: D. Buchanan 2
Boston - LP: K. Uehara 4 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Matusz 5
St. Louis - WP: M. Belisle 5 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 3
Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson 2 FINAL
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 1
San Francisco - WP: J. Machi 5 FINAL
Colorado - LP: B. Brown 4
Los Angeles - WP: B. McCarthy 11 FINAL
San Diego - LP: I. Kennedy 8
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 1 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: V. Pestano 4
Minnesota - WP: T. Stauffer 8 FINAL
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 5
Atlanta 83 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Chicago 90 FINAL
Milwaukee 92
Golden State 109 FINAL
New Orleans 98
Memphis 115 FINAL
Portland 109
Washington 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Detroit 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay 0
Nashville 3 FINAL
Chicago 4
Vancouver 4 FINAL
Calgary 7
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Columbus 4
Real Salt Lake 0 FINAL
New England 4
Sporting Kansas City 4 FINAL
Houston 4
D.C. 2 FINAL
Vancouver FC 1

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who has been the Wild's best player in the playoffs?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close