Willie Mays spent half of his Hall-of-Fame career in New York City. At the beginning, he was delighting Manhattan crowds with the New York Giants, leading them to a World Series title in 1954 with an MVP season and perhaps the greatest catch of all-time in the cavernous Polo Grounds. Mays and the Giants moved out west to San Francisco after the 1957 campaign, but the Say-Hey Kid’s final bow in the Big Apple came in 1972 when he was traded back east to the city’s new National League team, our beloved Mets. This is the story of his Glory Day with the orange and blue.
Dateline: August 4, 1972. Yogi Berra’s Amazin’ squad was at home to take on the visiting Chicago Cubs, led by Mays’s former Giant teammate, Whitey Lockman. Mets starter Jim McAndrew got into some trouble at the beginning of the game, giving up two singles and allowing a run to score on a sac fly. But the Cubs’ Fergie Jenkins was just as shaky in his half of the 1st, and Say-Hey Willie took advantage by launching a solo home run to tie the game.
Willie and company got it going again in the 3rd: Duffy Dyer singled and was sacrificed to second by McAndrew. Tommie Agee’s single sent Dyer to third, and Wayne Garrett brought him home with a productive groundout. Up came Mays, who delivered a clutch two-out single to score the speedy Agee. 3-1, Good Guys.
Dyer drove in a fourth run in the 4th, and Mays provided additional insurance in the 5th: Garrett doubled with one out and came home on another Willie single. Agee’s home run in the 7th provided the final margin, as McAndrew allowed just one more hit after the 1st on the way to a complete-game three-hitter, much to the delight of the 43,992 Shea faithful. Final score: Mets 6, Cubs 1. Final score for Willie Mays: 3-3, HR, 3 RBI.
That kind of day was as good as it would get for Mays during his second stint in New York: he finished 1972 batting .267 for the Mets and regressed to .211 in 1973, his final season in the big leagues. His team, on the other hand, took quite a spark from one of the best sparkplugs in baseball history, going 83-73 in ’72 and capturing the National League pennant in 1973.
August 4. A good day for both Rod Carew (3,00th hit) and Tom Seaver (300th win) in 1985. Also a good day for French peasants in 1789 (revolutionary National Constitute Assembly abolishes feudalism). A bad day for Robin Ventura in 1993 (charges Nolan Ryan on the mound, gets pounded in a headlock) and all of Europe in 1914 (Germany invades Belgium, prompting the U.K. to declare war on Germany, setting the pieces for World War I). A great day for Willie Mays in 1972.