Willie Mays catch: Legendary World Series play stands out among Say Hey Kid’s many career highlights

Willie Mays was a lot of things. He was a World Series champion, a 24-time All-Star,  a 12-time Golden Glove winner, and two-time NL MVP. 

He also was a human highlight reel. 

Whether it was with his bat at the dish, with his glove while patrolling the outfield, or with his legs on the basepaths, the legendary outfielder never failed to bring excitement to the diamond. He was one of the most electric players during his prime, and he goes down as one of the greatest to play the game of baseball. 

Here is a look at some of the greatest highlights in Mays’ extensive MLB career. 

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Best highlights from Willie Mays’ legendary career

Willie Mays makes “The Catch” in 1954 World Series

It’s known in the baseball world simply as “The Catch.”

During the 1954 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Cleveland Indians, Mays saved the day in the series opener. The game was tied 2-2 in the eighth inning, but Cleveland was threatening with runners on first and second and nobody out. 

Vic Wertz sent a blast off Don Liddle that seemed destined to fall, bringing around at least one runner. However, Mays pulled off a spectacular play to run down the ball, making an incredible basket catch that broadcaster Jack Brickhouse called an “optical illusion.” As if that wasn’t enough, he immediately popped up, twirled, and flung the back toward the infield, doing his best to keep the base runners at bay.

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It preserved the tie game, which San Francisco eventually won 5-2 in extra innings. It was the first of four consecutive wins for the Giants, who sept the Indians for Mays’ first and only championships. 

Willie Mays hit four home runs in a single game

One home run in a game is a good night at the office. Two long balls are impressive, and three are sensational. 

How about four home runs in a single game? That’s one on the resume for Mays. 

The Giants outfielder smacked four dingers in a 1961 contest against Milwaukee. He homered in the first and third innings off Brewers starter Lew Burdette, then homered again off Seth Morehead in the sixth, and finally hit his fourth of the night against Don McMahon in the eighth.

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The best part? Mays was playing at what he referred to as “70 percent” health. He suffered from an upset stomach the night before after taking down a plate of ribs. As Giants infielder Joe Amalfitano said,  “Well, your 70 percent is going to be better than whoever goes out there for their 100 percent.”

Willie Mays breaks NL HR record

Mays is remembered as a beloved player and one of the legends in the Giants organization, but it wasn’t until he broke the NL record for career home runs that San Francisco truly rallied behind him. 

In 1966, Mays smacked his 512th career home run off Claude Osteen in a contest against the Dodgers. It broke Mel Ott’s National League record and cemented his status as one of the greats of the era. 

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Willie Mays hits 600th home run

There are only nine players in MLB history to hit 600 home runs in their career. Mays is one of them. 

The legendary outfielder joined the exclusive club in 1969 when he smacked a long ball off Padres pitcher Mike Corkins. 

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Mays went on to hit 60 more, ending his career with 660 home runs. 

Willie Mays reaches 3,000 hits

Similar to the career home runs mark, Mays is an exclusive club when it comes to all-time hits. In 1970, the Giants superstar hit a single off Expos pitcher Mike Wegener, his 3,000th in his career. 

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At the time, Mays became the 10th player ever to reach that milestone. That number has since grown to 33, but it’s still a rare feat. 

Willie Mays plays stickball with kids in Harlem

This highlight didn’t come on a major league field, but it’s perhaps as memorable as anything Mays did throughout his legendary life. The Hall-of-Famer was truly an ambassador for the game, and there’s no better example than when he played stickball with kids on the streets of Harlem. 

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This was clearly a different time in America, as one can hardly imagine Shohei Ohtani or Aaron Judge freely walking around a busy urban neighborhood and playing with children without attracting a mob of onlookers, media, and autograph hounds. But Mays loved to give back to his community, so he would frequently join the kids and take them out for ice cream before games. 

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That’s why he’s not just an all-time great baseball player, but also a true icon and American legend.

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