Alongside the best way, he received 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 next yr, in 1972, he led the Mets in on-base share and was third on the workforce in batting common. It was the Say Hey Child’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.
However Mays performed yet another yr, 1973, and injured all through the season, he appeared in solely 66 video games. The Mets reached the World Collection, and although Mays had barely performed in six weeks, in Sport 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 beneath pop-ups all sport (six errors have been dedicated). In each the ninth and twelfth innings, Mays misplaced fly balls within the solar and seemed horrible doing so. He was scorned for his pratfalls.
By no means 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 turned the cautionary story for all athletes — and, for that matter, entertainers and politicians — who don’t know when to give up.
Mays is simply 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 have been necessary, he would have paid consideration to them. He’s too cussed to be an egotist.
What was necessary to him was that he helped his workforce win, he entertained the followers and he honored the sport — which, in his thoughts, he did by enjoying each sport he might, as exhausting as he might, so long as he might.
Willie Mays at 90? After all. It befits a person whose sturdiness, on and off the sector, is his legacy — and whose endurance is a poignant reminder of a sure period in American sports activities, wonderful however vanishing.
James S. Hirsch is the creator of “Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend.”