Many baseball fans and critics consider Mays to be the best all-around player of all time. Some were better at hitting for power or to get on base, others may be better at defense or running – but it’s hard to argue that there was anyone better at combining each of these individual ingredients.
He hit over the .300 mark ten 10 times in his career, finishing with an impressive career average of .302. While nowhere near a Ty Coob level of batting average (.420 over 24 years), Mays’ consistent average is pretty remarkable over a 22-season timeframe.
Likewise, his career best 52 homeruns in a season may look small in comparison to fellow Giant Barry Bonds record of 73 home runs in a single season, but is nevertheless very respectable. Mays led the league in home runs four different seasons, finishing with a total 660 home runs in his career. He hit 4 home runs in a single game against the Milwaukee Braves in 1961 – something few have done before or since.
On top of his 660 career home runs, Mays amassed 3,283 hits and 2,062 runs in his career.
The man they called Say Hey Kid wasn’t just good on the offensive side of the ball, he could also field and throw. Willie Mays is likely more well-known for the things he did on the defensive side of the ball. For starters, he amassed 12 Gold Glove awards over his time in the majors. Beyond that, Mays is responsible for arguably the best catch in history. Below is a video of what is referred to as “The Catch” by baseball fans:
Aside from the simple fact that “basket catches” are pretty tough to make – given the fact that you’re running with your back to the ball, the distance he ran is what truly makes this catch remarkable. In most stadiums, the hit would have been a homerun – yet Polo Grounds had an extremely deep centerfield. Mays was playing shallow and made the catch after running a ridiculous distance. He then threw the ball, making the player who was on second tag up and only reach third. This preserved the 2-2 in the 8th inning of a World Series game. Wow!
To further prove his baseball prowess here’s a couple more baseball stats. Mays appeared in 20 All-Star games, prompting this Ted Williams quote: “They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays.” He was also an NL MVP twice.
Off the field, Mays is known for his ability to connect with the community – particularly during his time as a New York Giant. In the locker room he’s know for his likeability, leadership and positivity.
He may not be the best hitter, offensive player or defensive player to ever play in the MLB – but his combined skills make him one of the best all-around players in history.