Willie Mays, the Almendares alumnus who made it to Cooperstown

Willie Mays was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame on this day in 1979.  Back in 1950-51, Willie played with Almendares of the Cuban winter league. He was a young player back then and went to Cuba to improve his chances of making the Giants’ major league roster.

Mays played 21 seasons with the Giants, and finished up with the Mets in 1972-73.    He hit over .300 ten times and retired with a career .302 average.  Mays was the NL MVP (1954 & 1965), and a 20-time NL All-Star.  He led the league in home runs four times and hit 660, or the second highest ever at the time he retired.

Some of us are old enough to remember watching Mays in the NBC Saturday afternoon game of the week.  Finally, I had a chance to watch Mays in 1972 when he finished his career with the New York Mets.   He wasn’t Willie Mays anymore but it was a huge thrill to see him in person! 

For my money, Mays was the greatest player of the 20th century and, to my knowledge, the only Almendares alumnus in Cooperstown.

PS: You can listen to my show (Canto Talk