I love baseball. it is the most beautiful game in the world for me. one of my favorite things about the game is the story and how that leads to a lot of debate.
I can sit with friends and talk for hours about any number of baseball topics, but the one topic we always seem to come back to is, “Who is the greatest player of all time?” actually, one of the questions in each user profile ask you to decide between babe ruth and willie mays.
with all due respect to joe dimaggio, hank aaron, ty cobb, walter johnson and a few others, the argument always seems to be between ruth and mays.
babe ruth has become an icon almost bigger than the sport itself. He revolutionized the game and saved it after the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919. Ruth, along with a new set of rules, took control of the game away from the pitcher’s mound and moved it directly to the batter. box.
as good as ruth was, he just wasn’t as good as william howard mays, the greatest baseball player of all time.
ruth’s defenders will say that ruth is by far the better player. He not only hit 714 home runs in his career, but also won 94 games as a pitcher and very likely could have made it into the Hall of Fame as a pitcher.
I’m not going to deny Ruth’s greatness as a player. he towered over the competition like no player before or since. he was the most dominant player and far superior to anyone who played against him. however, don’t confuse dominance with being the greatest player of all time.
it’s unfair to label ruth the best of all time when she didn’t play against the best competition. Ruth played in an era when baseball, like everything else in America, was segregated. there’s no way to know exactly, but no one can convince me that ruth would have the same numbers if he had hit rube foster, hilton smith and satchel paige.
Ruth also never had to play on artificial turf like Mays and all her contemporaries had to. the grass causes unnecessary wear and tear on the player’s body.
Ruth has never had to travel across the country to play a game that same night or have to play day games after night games. ruth only played in day games.
Relay pitching wasn’t a part of baseball in Ruth’s era any more than it was for Mays. it wasn’t as specialized as it is today, but pitchers generally finished games beginning in the 1920s and 1930s.
all of these factors made the game much more difficult to play in the mays era, but it still stood out like no one before or since.
players of five tools have been sought after for as long as the game has existed. those five tools are: hitting for power, hitting for average, having great speed and skill as a baserunner, being a great defender, and having a strong arm in the field.
willie mays was the quintessential five tool player. there was nothing on a baseball field that mays couldn’t do.
he hit .302 for his career with 660 career home runs. he stole 338 bases in his career. After Jose Canseco made history by becoming the first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season, Mays said, “If I knew it was such a big thing, I would have done it every year.” /p>
As good as his at-bat was, Mays may be best remembered for the plays he made in center field. Everyone knows about “the catch” he made against Vic Wertz and the Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series. But for Mays, that was just another in a career filled with catches that no one else in baseball could make.
it was common for radio hosts announcing giant games to say after mays hit a ball that, “the only man who could have caught that ball would just hit it.” That speaks to Mays’ ability as a hitter and fielder and how far behind his teammates he was.
“the all-star game was invented for willie mays” was a common phrase hall of famer ted williams used to use to describe mays. Mays played in 20 All-Star games, winning the game’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1963 and 1968.
There might not even be a discussion about the greatest player of all time if Mays hadn’t missed a season and a half in 1952 and 1953 after being drafted into the Army. Although Mays never saw action in combat, the time he lost may well have cost him the privilege of being the player to break Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record.
He became a hero to a nation of fanatics, but Mays never forgot those who came before him. he often told people that every time he looked at his bag he saw jackie robinson.
mays was in the first batch of young black players to benefit from jackie robinson’s breaking of the in-game color line. Along with Aaron, Frank Robinson and Ernie Banks, Mays proved that Robinson’s sacrifice was a victory for the sport and the country.
Though she’ll never let the public know, there’s a lot of sadness in Mays’ life. He may have benefited from Jackie Robinson’s plight, but Mays still had to deal with many of the same prejudices that Robinson did.
Mays played with former Negro Leaguers before reaching the majors, so he has always carried his fight to make his dream come true. hall of famer ray dandridge played with mays for the minneapolis millers in 1951.
dandridge was at the end of his career and missed playing in the big leagues. mays has never forgotten dandridge, and has always held on to the sadness that players like dandridge felt that they never got the break they deserved.
mays also played in a time when players didn’t have the most powerful syndicate in the world. if alex rodriguez earns $30 million a year from his play is that far from saying that willie mays would be worth $50 million a year had he played in this era?
willie mays is now 78 years old and suffers from glaucoma. He is a cherished member of the San Francisco Giants family and hailed as the greatest baseball player alive. Although he is still hailed as a hero by millions, sometimes it is hard to be everyone’s hero and that thought should not be forgotten.
despite the load he carries, willie mays is a special person. he used his charm and athletic ability to touch the lives of untold numbers of people. in turn, those people will always view willie mays as the greatest baseball player in the history of the game.