Other Free Encyclopedias » Famous Sports Stars » Baseball » Willie Mays Biography - Growing Up, A Way Out, Tough Times In The North, Chronology, The First Full Season - Several Father Figures, CONTACT INFORMATION

Willie Mays - Tough Times In The North

giants baseball black york

By the time Willie Mays was nineteen, Jackie Robinson had already broken the color barrier in baseball. When a scout for New York Giants came to watch a Black Barons game, he didn't go to the field to watch Mays. Instead, it was one of his teammates who was supposed to get the looksee. But after a few minutes in the ballpark, the scout realized there was only one player there. Mays had caught his eye. He was signed for a $4000 bonus, plus $250 a month salary, to play in Sioux City, Iowa, on the Giants' Class A team.

Yet there were racial problems in Sioux City, and Mays wasn't allowed to join the team. Instead, the Giants moved him to Trenton, New Jersey, to play in a Class B Interstate League. Mays would become the first black to ever play in that league. But after only a season in Trenton, he went to the Minneapolis Millers to play Triple A ball. This was 1951, and Mays was but a short step from the majors after his first sixteen games of the season. He was batting .608, with a defense that was nothing short of spectacular. Leo Durocher, who would, like Piper Davis, take Mays under his wing, was the manager of the New York Giants. He called up Mays early in the '51 season. The Giants, rather mediocre that year, needed the help of Mays.


1931 Born May 6 in Fairfield, Alabama, the only child of William Howard and Anna Sattlewhite Mays
1934 Moves with his father after parents divorce; remains close to his mother
1937 Begins education in segregated school in Alabama
1944 Plays semiprofessional baseball at age 13 with the Gray Sox
1946 Enters Fairfield Industrial High School, takes courses in dry cleaning
1946 Plays center field for Birmingham Industrial League while his father plays left field
1947 Begins play for Birmingham Black Barons, playing baseball with men ten years his senior
1948 Makes professional Negro Leagues debut on July 4
1950 Graduates from Fairfield High School
1950 New York Giants buy out Mays' Black Barons Contract. He is youngest black man ever signed by the major leagues
1950 Racial bias in Sioux City prevents Mays from joining their minor league team
1950 Puts up impressive numbers with Class B Inter-State League in Trenton, New Jersey, hitting .477 and 8 home runs in 35 games
1951 Becomes #3 batter in Giants' starting lineup on May 25
1952 Drafted by U.S. Army in May. Continues to play baseball
1954 Receives honorable discharge and returns to Giants
1954 Makes spectacular over-the-shoulder no-look catch, known simply as "The Catch"
1954 Makes appearances on Ed Sullivan Show and Colgate Comedy Hour
1955 Bus boycott in Alabama, started by Rosa Parks, gains world's attention
1955 Moves to Englewood, New Jersey
1956 Marries Marguerite Wendell
1957 New York Giants move to San Francisco
1958 Adopts infant son Michael
1963 Divorces Marguerite Wendell
1964 Appointed captain of the Giants
1965 Becomes national spokeperson for the Job Corps
1965 Mays remains silent and uninvolved in Civil Rights struggles, says "I don't picket … I'm not mad at the people who do. Maybe they shouldn't be mad at the people who don't"
1971 Marries Mae Louise Allen
1972 Traded to New York Mets
1973 Retires from Baseball
1973-79 Becomes coach and goodwill ambassador for New York Mets; would become public relations worker and make public appearances on behalf of many companies in 1980s and 1990s
1974 Inducted into the Black Hall of Fame
1979 Only player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year
2000 Honored with "Say Hey Day" at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco
2002 Sees his godson, San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds, make it to the World Series

Willie Mays became the starting center fielder for the Giants on May 25, 1951. But whether it was nerves or something else, Mays could muster only one hit in his first twenty-five at bats. Durocher, however, saw the fire in Mays and knew that patience was necessary. He never lost faith. Though the Giants had a lackluster season, with the help of Mays—who eventually came out of his slump—they finished strong, tying their rivals the Brooklyn Dodgers in the last game of the season and forcing a playoff for the pennant.

Willie Mays

This put Mays in a game that would include one of the most famous hits in baseball history. Mays' teammate, Bobby Thompson, came to bat in the bottom of the ninth. The Giants were down, but Thompson hit a three run homer off of Brooklyn Dodger Ralph Branca. The "Shot Heard Round the World" clinched the pennant for the Giants, but they went on to lose to the Yankees in seven games.

In spite of his poor start that year, Mays garnered the National League Rookie of the Year honor for his twenty home runs and .274 batting average. At the conclusion of the season, however, he would be called into the army and serve his two years (primarily as a baseball instructor).

Willie Mays - Chronology [next] [back] Willie Mays - A Way Out

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or