Sixty-four years ago today Willie Howard Mays, Jr. made his major league debut with the New York Giants – now the San Francisco Giants. Despite being armed with a sure glove and a powerful swing, he struggled in his very first days in the big leagues. He went 0-23 in his first 23 plate appearances until belting a home run in his 24th at bat.
I was curious if that is why he wore number 24 or if he already used that number. I did some research but didn’t find anything conclusive so I decided to ask the “Say Hey Kid” himself.
Mays went on to play 22 seasons and earned an impressive .302 lifetime batting average. He was rookie of the year in 1951, voted to 19 All-Star games, won a World Series, earned 12 Gold Gloves, and even hit four home runs in a single game – something only 15 other players have ever done, the last being Carlos Delgado in 2003.
Dear Mr. Mays,
Today marks 64 years since you debuted in the Major Leagues. There hasn’t been another player with your level of talent and passion for the game since you left baseball in ’73. Your famous catch in the ’54 World Series remains one of the most iconic baseball images of all time. You are the greatest of them all.
I’m curious, did you choose 24 from the start or did you pick that after getting your first hit on your 24th at bat – a home run at the Polo Grounds if I’m not mistaken.
I hope to hear from you.
With tremendous admiration and respect,
P.S. Happy belated birthday!