Today, 80 years ago, Willie Mays was born in Westfield, Alabama. In my opinion, Mays will always be one of the best overall position players in the history of baseball. His combination of power and speed is nearly unmatched in the annals of baseball. If you took a quick stroll through Mays’ numbers, the time spent looking up numbers and facts might not be so quick — Mays owns so many impressive records in baseball.
Mays accumulated 154.7 wins above replacement (B-R method) over his career, that’s good for 4th all-time on the list (for position players), only trailing Ruth (172), Bonds (171.8), and Ty Cobb (159.4). Additionally, Mays might have been one of the best fielders of all-time. Using Baseball-Reference’s handy Play Index Tool, we learn that on defense Mays was a career +185 runs above average defender; that ranks 9th all-time among position players. Oh, and he was a terrific base-stealer, leading the league four years in a row from 1956-59. On the baseball field, there wasn’t anything Willie couldn’t do. He was the rare talent that transcended the game. You knew when you were watching Mays, you were watching greatness incarnate. I always hear my Dad talk about what it was like to watch Mays play; it’s one of those things that I’m just a little jealous of, if only we could travel back in time, I might choose to go back to watch Willie.
Do yourself a favor today and look over Willie’s player page. I promise that you’ll be impressed by at least 20 different things — if not more.
The Giants’ official website has a nice tribute to Willie Mays, go check it out. Also, check out Dave Schoenfield’s post this morning on the Sweet Spot Blog entitled ‘Ten reasons Willie Mays is greatest ever‘.