I am among those people who feel Willie Mays was the greatest all-around player in baseball history. Beyond the numbers, there was something joyful about watching Willie play baseball. He seemed to be having fun. As Hall of Famer Willie Stargell once said, “The umpires don’t say work ball; they say play ball.”
When I was growing up in the 1960’s, the argument was who is better: Mays or Mickey Mantle. Even though I was a Yankee fan and Mantle was my favorite player, I have to give the nod to Mays. I think Mantle was a better player offensively; he drew many more walks. I would give a slight edge to Mantle as far as power is concerned.
There is no question that Mays was a better outfielder, a better base runner and had a more accurate throwing arm than Mantle. had. Mays also was much more durable.
I wish I could have seen Joe DiMaggio play. I am privileged to have seen Mays, Mantle and Hank Aaron play during their great years. Hank was consistently great and durable, too. He certainly should be mentioned in the same discussion with Mays and Mantle.
It has been said that it is a, “Hitters Hall of Fame.” Willie’s comments about playing defense and what that can mean to a team, provide a very valuable lesson to all of us.