Tag: Willie Mays

Barry Bonds Snaps Selfie with Sleeping Willie Mays

Barry Bonds turned what looked to be a cringeworthy prank into a heartwarming message to his godfather, Willie Mays.

Yes, he snapped a selfie with a sleeping Mays. Then he posted it to Instagram for 17,300 of his closest friends.

Call it what you might, but given the caption, we’re pretty sure Bonds really just thought he was capitalizing on an opportune time to show his appreciation.

Here’s what he wrote:

Yes he sleep. #SayHey Willie Mays and yes I sleep next to him. I am so proud to have the best God Father in the world. 😀❤️⚾️ I Love you and everything that you have done for me and my family Willie.

Endearing, right?


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San Francisco Giants: Top 5 Team Traditions

The San Francisco Giants celebrated their second World Series championship in three years after they swept the favored Detroit Tigers. The Giants proved that their championship in 2010 was not a fluke and that they are an outstanding team.

The old adage of “good pitching beats good hitting” holds true in San Francisco. With Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and a resurgent Barry Zito, there is no reason the Giants cannot be back in the hunt in 2013.

If former two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum can return to top form, the Giants’ starting rotation will once again be a core strength of the team.

The Giants’ bullpen is also extremely good and if closer Brian Wilson can make a successful return following his second Tommy John surgery, they will be even better.

As a life-long Giants fan, I am grateful and spoiled by the traditions of this organization. Let’s take a fun look at some of these great team traditions.

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Carlos Beltran Nears Exclusive 300-300-2,000 Club

One St. Louis Cardinal is rapidly making his way toward a rather exclusive club this season. Carlos Beltran is within hitting distance, no pun intended, of the 300-300-2000 club.

This status is reserved for players who have hit 300 home runs, stolen 300 bases and amassed 2,000 hits over their career. Lots of talk has floated about Beltran hitting 300-300, but the 2,000 hasn’t gotten much attention.

As of Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Beltran has 320 home runs, 299 stolen bases and 1,977 hits. Barring a major injury, he will make the club in 2012 without breaking a sweat.

Following are the few players who have made the club, including a few near-misses.

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The Day Willie Mays Prayed That He Wouldn’t Have to Bat

Willie Mays was in the on-deck circle at the Polo Grounds. Bobby Thomson was the batter with Whitey Lockman on first and Clint Hartung on third. The New York Giants trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers 4-2 with one out.

Mays started to pray.

”Please don’t let it be me. Don’t make me come to bat now, God.”

In 1951, Willie Mays was a 20-year-old rookie. Later, Willie prayed that he would be the one who would bat or have to make a great defensive play.

Willie Mays was responsible for the fact that he was waiting on deck that day because without the play he made on Aug. 15, the Giants would not have tied the Dodgers for the pennant.

The Giants were hosting the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds. The teams were tied 1-1 in Brooklyn’s half of the eighth inning.

With one out, Billy Cox, a fairly fast runner at that point in his career, was on third for Brooklyn, while pitcher Ralph Branca was on first.  Carl Furillo was facing Jim Hearn.

The outfield was playing Furillo to pull, with left fielder Monte Irvin shaded toward the left field line, right fielder Don Mueller playing well off the line in right and Willie almost in left-center field.

Furillo hit a fly ball to right-center field that everyone thought would be deep enough to score Cox with the lead run. Everyone was wrong.

Rookie Mays broke to his left and, running at full speed, made the catch.  It was a play that most good center fielders would make, but Mays had to run towards the right field foul line, which meant that he was moving away from home plate.

If he stopped running to set for the throw home, there would be no chance to throw out Cox.

Mays didn’t break stride. He planted his left foot, made a complete whirling pivot on the dead run as if he were a discus thrower and fired a guided missile home.

As the throw came flying toward the plate, first baseman Whitey Lockman let it go through. Catcher Wes Westrum caught the throw belt high and tagged out the incredulous Cox.

It was a greater play than the catch against Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series.

When Willie was six months old, his father taught him how to walk by putting a baseball on the ground. Little Willie wanted the baseball and realized that crawling to it was not as fast as trying to walk.

Almost every book about Mickey Mantle refers to how his father Mutt and his grandfather Pappy taught him to switch-hit. A less publicized fact is that Willie’s father, who played semi-pro ball, was his first coach.

Leo Durocher influenced Mays more than anyone else. The fiery manager told Mays that he was born to play baseball.

Looking back, it is difficult to believe that Willie needed anyone to tell him that he was born to play baseball, but when he first joined the Giants, he was just beginning to become “Willie Mays.”

To show his regard for Willie and to build his confidence, Durocher batted him third in his first major league game. Durocher convinced Mays not to try hit a home run every at-bat. 

Willie listened, hit more singles, still hit home runs and won the 1954 batting title with a .345 average. 

Although it may seem difficult to believe for those who never saw him play, Mays was greater on defense than he was on offense. Many think that he was a greater defensive center fielder than Ozzie Smith was a defensive shortstop, and that’s saying something.

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MLB: Modern Statistics Reveal Mickey Mantle Was a Better Hitter Than Willie Mays

When the “experts” compared Mickey Mantle to Willie Mays, the first thing they mentioned was each player’s batting average. Then they compared the number of home runs each player hit and that was usually followed by comparing their slugging averages. Finally, RBI totals and runs scored were cited.

Mantle struck out much more than Mays, which was considered a tremendous negative. Mantle walked much more than Mays, but on base average didn’t become an official statistic until 1984.

After each had retired, Mays was generally considered the greater offensive player, although it was generally conceded that when he was healthy, as he was for most of 1956, Mantle more than held his own against Mays.

In 2011, a player’s offensive abilities are measured differently from the days of Mantle and Mays.

Many of the recently created modern statistics fail to account for many variables and some might even be based on faulty premises, but they have made Mantle into a better offensive player than Mays, so more power to them.

Batting average is much less important today than it was when Mantle and Mays were active.

Mantle finished at .298. Mays finished at .302.  However, American Leaguers batted .256 during Mantle’s career while National Leaguers hit .264 during Mays’ career. Mantle hit 42 points higher than the league average. Mays batted 38 points above the league average. Of course, during the 1950s, the National League had many more great black players than the American League. Statistics are great.

Mantle’s career on base average was .421 compared to Mays’ .384. Each had a .557 slugging average.

Mantle’s best single-season slugging averages were .705 in 1956, .687 in 1961 and .665 in 1957. Mays’ best were .667 in 1954, .659 in 1955 and .645 in 1965.

Do you think they were pretty good hitters?

The most home runs Mantle hit in a season was 54 in 1961. Mays’ single-season high was 52 in 1965.

Now let’s go to the new measurements.

WAR, or Wins Above Replacement, purports to determine the number of wins a player added to the team above what a replacement player would add. A WAR value greater than eight is considered MVP quality and a value greater than five is All-Star quality.

Mantle’s top WAR values are 12.9, 12.5 and 11.9. Mays’ best are 11.0, 10.6 and 10.4.

Mays played for 19 full seasons. In 1952 (army), 1972 and 1973, he was a part-time player. Mantle played 16 complete seasons. He missed much of 1963 when he broke his foot in a fence at Baltimore and played in only 96 games his rookie season.

Mays’ career WAR is 154.7. Mantle’s is 120.2.

Offensive winning percentage purports to determine the percentage of games a team with nine of a specific player batting would win, assuming average pitching and defense. Mantle produced an .803 winning percentage compared to Mays’ .748.

Willie Mays was the most exciting player in the game when he wasn’t batting. Mantle was the most exciting batter since the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

On the bases and in the field, few could compare to the excitement Mays brought to the game, but when Mantle stepped into the batter’s box, the possibility of seeing a ball leave Yankee Stadium, the sound of the ball meeting the bat and the chance that Mantle would eschew going for the downs and try to start a rally by dragging a bunt are almost indescribable.

It is fascinating to compare how Mantle and Mays were evaluated when they played to how their careers are evaluated today.

Regardless of one’s preference, few players have been as great as Mantle or Mays.

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Willie Mays: Greatest Living Ballplayer of All Time

As baseball fans celebrate Willie Mays’ 80th birthday, we are reminded that in baseball, more than any other sport, greatness must stand the test of time. The game has such a rich and documented history, it’s not good enough to be great for seven years a la the NFL

Mays spent a quarter of his 80 years (literally 20) as an all-star center fielder. I’m 28 and I’ve NEVER made an all-star game, even as a fan.

To me, what stands out more than the 660 home runs, 3,283 hits and 12 straight Gold Gloves is the fact that Mays played his last game nearly 40 years ago and people half that age are familiar with his exploits.

Kids know “The Catch” when they see it. They know who the Michael Jordan of baseball was and is. The fact that Mays has attained that status without much cultivation or corporate sponsorship (although a “Catch” Jumpman logo would be awesome) makes him perfectly suited for the role. Mays is the greatest of the Greatest Living Ballplayers of All Time.

The designation of Greatest Living Ballplayer only comes around every few generations. As is the case with any monarchy, you can’t be detrhroned until you die. Like baseball, the title is the perfect combination of performance and luck (both Ruth and Gehrig may have died prematurely). 

While baseball has always been about statistics and milestones, the GLB title has always gone beyond just numbers and over the years, spanned personalities.

Ty Cobb was the first to attain the title in the 20th Century, both while playing and in retirement. Many point out that Cobb attained the title due to Babe Ruth’s untimely death, they forget it was the cantankerous Georgia native that garnered 98.2 percent of the inaugural Hall of Fame vote—ahead of Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.

Imagine Barry Bonds (who, by all accounts, is not a vehement racist, never pistol whipped anyone, allegedly bet on baseball or beat a crippled fan) getting 98.2 percent of the Cooperstown vote. Despite his massive shortcomings as a human being, the writers respected Cobb for what he did between the lines.

That said Cobb was the embodiment of a villain. Mays is the antithesis of that characterization. Find me somebody that doesn’t like Willie Mays and I show you a bipartisan budgetary committee that can agree on one thing—you’re an idiot.

After Cobb, baseball aficionados did a 180 and anointed the style and grace of Joe DiMaggio. As effortless as he made things look on the field, the Yankee Clipper guarded fiercely his public persona and legacy. As a result, the public never knew him outside the role of pitchman.

DiMaggio was an exclusive Manhattan nightclub, Mays is a Harlem stickball game, open to all. Although DiMaggio had fierce competition from his contemporaries, particularly Ted Williams, none had a chance to dispatch him. There is no denying the draw; 56-game hit streak, nine World Series titles and a marriage to one of the most iconic women of the 20th century.

Outside of their five-tool gifts, there couldn’t be two more different players; the reckless abandon of Willie Mays and the natural polish of Joe D. I’ll take the guy who played a kid’s game like a kid as opposed to the cold, calculated professional. You get the feeling Mays was great because he loves baseball. DiMaggio was great because he was terrified of embarrassing himself.

After DiMaggio’s death in 1999, there were many viable suitors for the vacant GLB crown. The aforementioned Williams, who let down his guard and endeared himself to millions at that year’s All-Star Game, was a worthy successor. Williams was always content with being the greatest living hitter, which he was when Cobb or Ruth passed.

Stan Musial is adored the same way Mays was, it’s just that all of his fan club resides in St. Louis. The plain and simple truth is that Mays was better in every facet with the exception of hitting for average. That said, not one person in this conversation is as universally loved as Mays and Musial.

Let’s not forget about the Home Run King at the time, and maybe the most underrated (sounds crazy, but think about it) athlete ever, Hank Aaron. We are talking about the best pure hitter of all time and the most prolific hitter of all time.

Nonetheless, when DiMaggio passed there seemed to be a general consensus that the torch had been seamlessly passed to Mays. While Aaron trumps Mays statistically, The Say Hey Kid’s all-around brilliance overshadows Aaron (a pretty decent five-tool guy in his own right). Williams was a better hitter, but even the Splinter would have told you, boasted rather, as to who the better player was.

Even Mays’ prodigiously talented godson has the numbers, but outside of San Francisco, the adulation is few and far between. Granted, Mays’ era wasn’t the fish bowl that Bonds’ was, but that only adds to the luster.

But Bonds made it look easy, effortless, dialed. He was almost too good. Mays made it look like every fiber in his body was intent on taking the extra base, willing a home run through the winds at Candlestick or running down an impossible line drive. Those are the snapshots we have of him. Those little glimpses of greatness.

I can honestly say that my three biggest sports time machine requests are in no particular order: 1. seeing Ted Williams hit a baseball. 2. Watching Jordan play live for the early 90s Bulls, (I mean the Wizards version was great and all but…). 3. Watching Mays play in his prime. Hell, I’d be content with watching him play center field.

Mays is an absolutely unique to all of his contemporaries and that’s the best part about it. There is only one Ted Williams, or Ty Cobb or Hank Aaron. Numbers may stack up similarly but if you throw out objectivity and think about how players make you feel, that’s the formula for greatness, which no amount of OPS, WAR or VORP will ever be able to replace.

In those 80 years it has been a Tale of Two Mayses. Not just New York and San Francisco but in life. In contrast to his cap-shedding style of play, Mays has made the transition to baseball royalty look…easy. For us and for him. Because he deserves it.

Who still wears a baseball cap at 80? Veterans of foreign wars and Willie Mays, people that deserve it. You get the feeling that he wears the cap in the hopes that he will get one last chance to chase down a fly ball or go from first to home on a single.

We love him because he loves the game the same way we do. Happy birthday to the Greatest Living Ballplayer of All Time.

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New York Mets: 13 Players Who Have Had Better Careers on Other Teams

Perhaps it’s just coincidence and happenstance, but it seems like the New York Mets have had the worst luck and/or timing when it comes to collecting talent on their roster.

Whenever they would obtain a perennial All-Star-type player or former MVP, that player would prove to be a huge bust and completely tank with the Mets.

On the flip side, the Mets seem to always trade away or let go of players who would go on to lead All-Star, MVP and even Hall of Fame careers.

The talent that has come and gone through the Mets is quite extraordinary. So, let’s take a look at some of the top players, past and present, the Mets either gave up on too soon, or brought in too late in their respective careers.

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Barry Bonds and Steroids Deprived MLB Fans of More Than We Realize

Barry Bonds awaits his fate in a federal courthouse in San Francisco for allegedly lying about knowingly using steroids.

Whatever the outcome of that case, one thing is for certain: Bonds deprived us of more than we know as baseball fans.  It’s not just the asterisks that we attach to the records Bonds broke; it’s more than that.  It’s what he didn’t allow us to see: a great player who achieved so much through natural ability and dedication to his craft, who then got older and slowed down.

That’s right.  We didn’t get to see Barry decline, and that’s not fair to the game of baseball or its fans.

One of the biggest reasons baseball is America’s pastime—the game of our forefathers, and now our game—is because we can identify with those who compete on the diamond.  We see ourselves in so many of our heroes on the baseball field, both in their triumphs and defeats.  We see men who toil in the minor leagues for years and years before finally getting their shot on the big stage under the bright lights.  We see those who have such a beautiful, natural gift for the game, that it’s simply a joy to watch them display that day-in and day-out.

That’s why we see movies like “The Rookie” (where a middle-aged high school baseball coach gets a chance in the big leagues in his 40s) and “The Natural” (where Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs, “the greatest there ever was”).

We see tragedy, as when Lou Gehrig caught “a bad break”, being diagnosed with ALS (thereafter named “Lou Gherig’s disease”), forcing him into early retirement and, rapidly, into an early exit from this life.  We see triumph, like when hobbled pinch-hitter Kirk Gibson of the Dodgers limped to home plate in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series to face the toughest closer in the game, Dennis Eckersley, and homered to win it for Los Angeles, propelling the underdog Dodgers to a world championship over the heavily-favored Athletics.

These moments remind us of our own challenges, fears, failures, courage, and triumphs.  We gain strength by seeing a man hit a round ball with a round bat, while other men chase that ball down.  Baseball mimics life, and beautifully at that.  That’s why we’re so addicted to it.  It gives us something to remind us of who we are and what we can achieve.

One of the most important lessons we learn from baseball is that nothing lasts forever.  It’s true in the game, and it’s true in life.  Our heroes of the diamond are great ballplayers for 10, maybe even 15 years, but then they start to fade and their skills begin to erode right before our eyes.  Willie Mays may have said it best, from the perspective of one of the greatest of all-time: “Growing old is just a helpless hurt.”  The 41-year-old Mays said that after he had fallen in the outfield during the 1973 World Series, when he was a member of the New York Mets.  It was clear that diminishing skills and an aging body were even catching up with the Say Hey Kid.

Willie Mays is just one of many great players in baseball history that were among the best in the game during their primes, but whose ability faded with the passage of time, helping us see that we should make the most of what we have in life, and more than that, the most of what we have to give.  More recently, we’ve seen some of the greatest players of our own generation hang up the spikes after coming to the realization that they just don’t have enough anymore.

Chief among them: Ken Griffey, Jr.  Junior Griffey was perhaps the greatest player of the 1990s, and were it not for numerous injuries that plagued him later in his career, he would have very likely passed Hank Aaron on the all-time home run list.  Griffey finished with 630 home runs, and was a 12-time all-star and 10-time Gold Glove award winner.  But in the last few seasons of his career, he changed physically, visibly gaining weight, as well as on the field, becoming a designated hitter rather than patrolling his usual center field territory with the Seattle Mariners.  It was rumored last season, before he retired, that he fell asleep in the clubhouse during a Mariners game.

But Griffey’s limitations were, in a way, refreshing to witness.  It was clear that time had caught up with the former superstar, and the myriad injuries that hindered him during his career showed that he is, indeed, human.  By 2009, it was clear that Griffey was in decline.  In 117 games for the Mariners that season, he hit just .214 with 57 RBI.  The Kid retired in 2010 after a storied big league career, leaving a legacy as one of the most beloved stars in baseball history—in Seattle and around the baseball world.

And then there’s Barry Bonds.

From 1986, when Bonds broke into the big leagues, through 1998 (the year before he allegedly began using steroids), he was an eight-time all-star, three-time National League MVP, seven-time Silver Slugger award-winner, and eight-time Gold Glove award winner.

Those are first ballot Hall of Fame numbers.

Then in 1999 things began to change.  Bonds body went through extraordinary changes.  He bulked up immensely, and his head, hands and feet appeared to have grown as well.  Before 1999, the most home runs Bonds had ever hit in a single season was 46 in 1993.  In 2000 he hit 49.  Then in 2001, he hit 73.  In that season, he only had 49 singles.  47% of his hits were homers, and 69% of hits were extra-base hits.  These numbers were mind-boggling, especially for a man who was now 37 years old.

How does a ballplayer who never hit more than 46 homers in a season in his 20s hit 73 when he was almost 40?  Well, we all know the story.

And it’s a sad one.  Baseball is a game for the common man, and it should be played by the common man—not one who has added artificial strength to excel past his peers in the sport.

In a strange way, we want to—no, we need to—see our heroes decline.  It shows us truth, and it shows us integrity and grace from those like Willie Mays and Ken Griffey, Jr., who played with what they naturally had.  They thrilled us with their natural abilities while in their prime, and we watched in sadness but with great respect and admiration when they struggled through their decline.

Outside of San Francisco, and perhaps even somewhere inside as well, there was no respect or admiration for what Bonds did.

He may have hit a lot of home runs.  But he did not give us what we wanted to see.

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MLB: Texas Rangers: Nelson Cruz on Cruise Control as Rangers Win Fouth Straight

Monday night at the Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers handed the Mariners a 6-4 loss to remain undefeated in this young 2011 MLB season.

A decent outing for Derek Holland, as he pitched six innings en route to his first win of the season. He allowed three runs and seven hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Neftali Feliz who has been getting used, but in his first save opportunity, pitched a three up-three down, to retire the side, and receive his first of what could be many saves this season.

Ex-Ranger Justin Smoak ripped an RBI double to bring the score to 3-2.

But before the Mariners could celebrate, Nelson Cruz remained hot at the plate hitting his fourth home run in as many games to make the score 4-2.

Nelson Cruz joins an elite group, with Willie Mays and Mark McGwire as being the only two other players to start the first four games off with a homer. Who hit five you may ask? No one. So tonight, Cruz has a chance to own a record.

Next up—Alexi Ogando is scheduled to make his major league starting debut tonight against the Mariners. Ogando went 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA, in mostly stretch relief work, for the Rangers in 2010 setting up Neftali Feliz in the closing role.


Some Meat To Marinate On

There are now only four teams in the MLB that are undefeated.

The Rangers and the Orioles are 4-0 while the Red and Phillies are 3-0.

There hasn’t been a start like this for the Rangers sense 1996 when they went 7-0 to start the season.

Obviously, Arlington has been a place where the Rangers are enjoying the success this season. The road will be vital for this team, as home has been their safe haven to this point.

The Rangers will be on the road for the next three series (nine games) after this series with Seattle.

The Rangers start off with a three game series with the Orioles who are also undefeated, as stated earlier. Then it’s off to Detroit for a three game warm-up series, before moving on to the Bronx, and the N.Y. Yankees.

In those nine road games, it will be interesting to see if the Rangers will be able to remain as hot as they have been in the first four games.

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‘The Splendid Splinter’ and the 50 Best Nicknames in MLB History

Nicknames and baseball go together like peanut butter and jelly. 

There are literally thousands of different nicknames that baseball players have acquired though their careers, and we all have our favorites. 

Making a list of the top 50 nicknames is difficult, because there are some great players and nicknames that have to be left off the list.  So I guess I’m apologizing in advance if I left your favorite off the list.

Here are the top 50 nicknames in MLB history:

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