Along the best way, he gained his second M.V.P. Award at 34, and was nonetheless one of many sport’s greatest gamers at 40 — his .907 O.P.S. was 225 factors above the league common. The following 12 months, in 1972, he led the Mets in on-base share and was third on the group in batting common. It was the Say Hey Kid’s triumphant return to New York, and had he retired then, after years of slamming into catchers and crashing into partitions, he would have been remembered for his rugged invincibility.
But Mays performed yet another 12 months, 1973, and injured all through the season, he appeared in solely 66 video games. The Mets reached the World Series, and although Mays had barely performed in six weeks, in Game 2 in Oakland, he pinch-ran within the ninth inning and was then despatched into middle subject. It was a brutal sunny day, with gamers staggering below pop-ups all day (six errors had been dedicated). In each the ninth and 12th innings, Mays misplaced fly balls within the solar and seemed horrible doing so. He was scorned for his pratfalls.
Never thoughts that many nice athletes — Babe Ruth and Aaron in baseball, Johnny Unitas, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan in different sports activities — play too lengthy. Mays grew to become the cautionary story for all athletes — and, for that matter, entertainers and politicians — who don’t know when to give up.
Mays is just too proud to acknowledge that this hurts him, however I’m sure it does. He makes no claims about being the best participant of all time and isn’t within the dialogue. He dismisses comparisons to different gamers. He jokes that if he had recognized stats had been essential, he would have paid consideration to them. He is just too cussed to be an egotist.
What was essential to him was that he helped his group win, he entertained the followers and he honored the sport — which, in his thoughts, he did by taking part in each sport he may, as laborious as he may, so long as he may.
Willie Mays at 90? Of course. It befits a person whose sturdiness, on and off the sphere, is his legacy — and whose endurance is a poignant reminder of a sure period in American sports activities, superb however vanishing.
James S. Hirsch is the writer of “Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend.”