Celebrating Willie Mays on Anniversary of 600th Home Run


September 22nd is a very special date for Willie Mays and the San Francisco Giants. On this date in 1969, with the Giants in San Diego taking on the Padres, Willie Mays joined a very exclusive club in baseball lore. This was a club so exclusive, in fact, that Mays became only the second member. In the seventh inning against Padres’ pitcher Mike Corkins, Mays hit his 600th career home run as a pinch-hitter, joining the legendary Babe Ruth as the only members (at the time) of the 600-home run club.

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The living legend Mays had a career for the ages. Over 22 seasons, he hit 660 home runs, the second-highest total in baseball at the time of his retirement, and still the fifth-highest total today. He’s still known for his running, over-the-shoulder catch in the 1951 World Series, known simply as “The Catch”. “The Say Hey Kid” is still one of the most recognizable nicknames in ball. His 24 All-Star Game appearances are tied for the most ever.

Mays won two Most Valuable Player Awards, in 1954 and 1965. He was Rookie of the Year in 1951. He won 12 Gold Gloves. He took home a batting title, stolen base titles, and home run titles. His number 24 jersey will never be worn by a Giants’ player again. His laundry list of accomplishments goes on, and on, and on.

His influence still lives on. During All-Star Game festivities this year in Cincinnati, Mays was one of the four players named as the “Greatest Living Players”, as voted on by fans, along with three other legends, Sandy Koufax, Johnny Bench, and Hank Aaron. Mays won a World Series ring during his playing career in 1954, but he has also been awarded with three by the Giants, after each of their World Series victories over the past half-decade. By all accounts, Mays deserves those rings.

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In being named as one of the “Greatest Living Players” that baseball has to offer, the argument re-opened that Mays is in fact the greatest player to ever don a uniform. Just head over to Google and type in “Willie Mays greatest”. It’s a hot topic, and will continue to be, because Mays stakes a great claim to taking the honor of being the best baseball player ever.

The 600-home run club is a little more crowded nowadays. Eventual home run king Hank Aaron joined the club in 1971, just two seasons after Mays. While both Aaron and Mays were still active, Aaron passes the Say Hey Kid, hitting his 650th home run on June 13th, 1972, while Mays was still stuck on 649 in his penultimate season. Aaron would eventually leapfrog Ruth, taking the crown as baseball’s home run king when he finished his career with 755.

Mays’ godson, Barry Bonds, joined his godfather in the club in 2002. On April 12th, 2004, Bonds hit his 660th home run, tying Mays for third on the all-time list. After Bonds crossed home plate, Mays came onto the field, met Bonds with an embrace as the crowd cheered for two of the greatest players the Giants have ever seen, and passed a torch to Bonds. The very next day, Bonds his number 661, passing his godfather and taking sole possession of third for himself. He would eventually pass both Ruth and Aaron as well.

This anniversary gives us another reason to remember Mays, as if we needed one. Any chance to celebrate Mays should be taken. On a very special day for the greatest living player and for the franchise he called home, we tip our caps to The Say Hey Kid.

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