First Blush

Reflections and sightings from [almost] daily jogging at dawn

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sunrise 6:04 am: The greatest baseball player ever


No, the Dawn Joggers were not at Willie Mays Plaza this morning. The female DJ was at the Giants/Cubs ball game last night. And so was Willie Mays himself, there to take in his godson's shot at tying Babe Ruth's home run record. (It didn't happen thanks to a great catch by the Cubs centerfielder Juan Pierre.) So a little musing on the Say Hey Kid seems appropriate.

There is no more important baseball player in the female DJ's life than Willie Mays. As a child, her Uncle Bill taught her that Mays was "best player in baseball" and that San Francisco was blessed to get the Giants rather than "the Bums." (She can't recall how long it took her to realize that the Bums were actually named the Dodgers.) To her, Mays in his prime personified the perfect joy that watching America's pastime can bring to fans. She is forever grateful that she saw him play and is not alone in believing that he is not only the greatest living baseball player but the greatest player ever.

Willie Mays also introduced her to racism. She had taken to heart the "best player" moniker so remembers being confused when she heard adults talking about the stir Mays' purchase of a home in Atherton (wealthy and white) was creating. From a child's perspective, she didn't understand why everyone woudn't be thrilled to have Willie Mays in the neighorhood. It was the female DJ's first exposure to white people's deep-seated prejudice against black people.

Willie Mays turned 75 on May 6 and the Giants are planning a pregame celebration on Saturday. For those too young to know much about Mays other than as godfather to Barry Bonds, sportwriter John Shea provides a great overview in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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