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Munch Musings – Remembering Willie Mays

I was at Progressive Field last night watching the Cleveland Guardians and the Seattle Mariners going at it when I got the news that Willie Mays had been called Home. No doubt fitting that I was at a game that he dominated as very few have controlled in so many ways. A “5 Tool” player? Willie was 5 Tool 2.0 x 10! There’s an equation for you. He could beat you in every facet of the game and as he noted “the only one who can catch that ball is the one who hit it!” The “SAY HEY KID” earned that beloved moniker as he would greet people with the verbiage “SAY HEY.” Those close to him called him “Buck”.

I first became aware of Willie from my Dad who witnessed the ’48 World Championship and the World Series sweep by Willie and the Giants in 1954. All Max would say was “that young fella is so special, and as a proud USMC Vet he always noted how Willie Mays served his country from 1952 to 1954 starting his service in the Army a year after he was, he National League Rookie of the Year!

I also learned more about Willie when our family moved from Slavic Village to Lee – Harvard and I would make the trek down Harvard to Lamboy’s Delicatessen to get my nickel pack of Topp’s baseball cards. Yes, the gum was rock hard, and rarely did we chew it as we would toss it against the sidewalk to see if it would dent the concrete!

I perused the back of cards in a voracious manner and the good and great players stood out. My Dad would also leave the PD sports open to the box scores after he left for work so my Summer regimen including checking out these scores on a daily basis and reporting my findings to the Uleszewski boys next store or others in the neighborhood. Yes, being in Cleveland and being an Indians fan Rocky was numero uno and as a very young boy I was destroyed when Trader Frank Lane shipped him off to the Tigers. Of course, Mickey Mantle was up there too and for me it was not “Willie, Mickey and the Duke” but “Rocky, Willie and Mickey”! The Golden Knights Little League played behind the Church and school off of Feiner Drive and no doubt my number was Willies, #24! The fields are still there today for the Urban Aces Little League, and I have been known to pull up, park the car and still run the bases on the two fields I played on.

More on Willie and my fandom and me doing anything I could to make his team win (!!) came from my upbringing. My grade school in the Lee – Harvard neighborhood was St. Henry, home of the Famous Golden Knights!) and the school was busting at its seams from the huge families of WWII vets. There were 8 grades with 4 classes per grade each with at least 40 students. The school was so well attended that extra classrooms had to be built in the basement “Family Room” and two Masses were held simultaneously every Sunday, 4 Masses in the main Church and 4 in the “Family Room” Church!

Out of 32 classes there were only 2 lay teachers, all the rest were Nuns from the Order of Dominicans with their black and white attire. Ok, where is this going you ask? In the school we every class went to Mass EVERY WEEKDAY at 8am and yes, we knelt and said the Rosary in class. I knew the power and value of prayer. In 1962 the Giants and Dodgers finished with identical 101-61 records and a 3-game tie-breaker series would determine the winner of the NL Pennant. The Dodgers won a coin toss so game 1 was in SF (won by the Giants) and game 2 in LA (won by the Dodgers) so of course a game 3 would be in LA. This prompted me to take extreme measures and do something I knew I should not be needed to…PRAY that the Giants would beat the Dodgers and play in the World Series! I went into my bedroom at 3990 JoAnn Drive, shut the door, got on my knees and to paraphrase I asked the Lord for forgiveness as I knew we should pray for those in need, for health, for the poor and more but let HIM know how important Willie was not just to baseball, but society as a whole and ye3s being selfish to me! Yes, the Giants won game 3 then went on to lose to the Yankees in the World Series in 7 games. I did not pray for Willie and his mates in the series, I only used my “prayer mulligan once.” Yes, this man was very important to me as fan and human.

Willie Mays played for the Giants from 1951 to part of 1972 when he was sent to the Mets and called it a career in 1973 after 66 games. Overall, the “Say Hey Kid” was an All-Star 24 times, had 1`2 Gold Gloves, 2 MVP’s, a batting title, and Rookie of the Year plus a spot in baseball fans (even Dodgers) hearts. I have to note the stories are endless about Willie’s incomparable career and wisdom on and off the field! Talk about breaking down barriers Willie was sought out my teammates who were white, black and of all nationalities for advice on relationships to finances and of course the game. Baseball great Leo Durocher was approached by Mays when Leo called him up join the Giants when Willie was hitting .477 in the Minors. Mays was worried about hitting big league pitching and all Leo said was “hit TWO _____ SEVENTY-SEVEN for me and I’ll be happy.” My favorite quote from Willie? “My biggest thrill is playing ball every day.” He finished that quote many times with the words “I didn’t say ballplayer. I said playing ball.”

Let me finish by noting MLB needs to make some image of Willie (The CATCH?) the logo for the league. Thank you, Willie.

Read more my musings and thoughts plus “All Good” narratives at and yes indeed #MunchOnSports is powered by Ganley Chevy Of Aurora and the Ken Ganley Automotive Group.


Please take care of each other and it’s your world, pay attention. Always enjoy every sandwich and for now ADIOS AMIGO, long may you run.


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