Willie Mays' Minneapolis days were brief — but glorious

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2014 - 12:16 AM

Willie Mays cap here and here and here and here

Photo: Star Tribune file,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

The Minneapolis Millers left the Twin Cities on May 19, 1951, to start a road trip in Milwaukee. Willie Mays, a center fielder who had turned 20 two weeks earlier, went 4-for-5 with a triple, a home run and two RBI.

The Millers went 3-3 on the trip to Milwaukee and Kansas City. Mays was 14-for-29 with eight RBI and seven extra-base hits. This put his average in 35 games in the Class AAA American Association at .477, to go along with eight home runs and 30 RBI.

The young man’s on-base percentage was .524, his slugging percentage was .799 and, if it was 60 years later, Halsey Hall, the Minneapolis sportswriter and broadcaster, would have said:

“Holy cow, Mays has an OPS of 1.323.”

Memorial Day was getting near. That would be the unofficial start of the summer baseball season, and Millers fans were preparing to descend on Nicollet Park to see this phenomenon of the New York Giants farm system.

The Millers stopped in Sioux City, Iowa, on the way back from Kansas City to Minneapolis. They were scheduled to play the Soos, a Class A farm club of the Giants, in an exhibition game May 24.

Mays went to a movie early in the day, as was his custom on the road. “A message came on the screen: ‘Willie Mays Go To Lobby,’ ” Mays said in a recent interview in San Francisco. “I thought something bad might’ve happened with my family.”

Mays was told by a theater employee to go immediately to Millers manager Tommy Heath’s room at the team hotel. It was there that Willie Mays, 11 months after his high school graduation in Fairfield, Ala., was informed that he was going to New York to sign a big-league contract and take over as the center fielder for the Giants.

“I was doing everything right in Minneapolis; I told Tommy Heath that I didn’t want to go to the Giants,” Mays said. “I didn’t think I was ready for the big leagues. Heath said, ‘I’ll get [Giants manager] Leo Durocher on the phone and you can tell him that.’

“He called and Leo got on the phone. Everyone knows how Leo talked. And he used a lot of his favorite [curse] words telling me to go to the airport in Sioux City and get to New York.”

The top of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune’s front page on May 25, 1951, included a four-column headline on grain relief to starving people in India, a pair of one-column headlines and a two-column headline reading: “Giants Call Up Willie Mays.” Two days later, in the Sunday Tribune, there was an ad signed by Horace Stoneham, the president of the New York Giants, explaining to Millers fans the need for his team to summon Mays to the major leagues.

“I would meet people from Minneapolis for years after that and they would say, ‘Mr. Mays, I never got a chance to see you play for the Millers,’ ” Mays said. “They would tell me they were waiting for summer.”

After Mays had a week from May 7 through May 13, when he went 22-for-30, it would have been advisable for those Minnesotans to move up their timetable for seeing Willie, even if it was on a school night.

  • related content

  • Willie Mays: An All-Star for all time

    Sunday July 13, 2014

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

  • Willie Mays batted .477 over a 35-game stretch for the Millers in 1951.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

New Orleans 28 FINAL
Carolina 10
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Memphis 6:00 PM
Indiana
Cleveland 7:00 PM
Chicago
Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
Portland 9:00 PM
Sacramento
San Antonio 9:00 PM
Phoenix
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Columbus
Los Angeles 6:30 PM
Detroit
Anaheim 7:30 PM
Dallas
Nashville 8:00 PM
Calgary
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 7:02 PM
Memphis
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Hamilton 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the Twins contact Joe Maddon about their managing job?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close