Can it be so? Surely not. But look at the calendar and do the arithmetic. It’s true. Willie Mays is 85 years old today. Willie Mays! He was born on May 6, 1931 in Westfield, Alabama.
I hope Willie is doing well and wearing his years comfortably. They’re making a bit of a fuss about the anniversary, as well they should, in San Francisco, where Willie played most of his 22 Major League seasons (would have been 24 save for the two years Willie served in the Army). As the news gets out, I’m confident baseball fans everywhere will take a moment to celebrate this elegant athlete.
The news makes me aware of the years I’ve accumulated myself, as it is so easy for me to remember when Willie was poetry in motion in the outfield, a distracting greyhound on the bases, and a terror to pitchers with a bat in his hand. Take a moment to re-live “The Catch” that will live forever from the 1954 World Series. In the decades since, I’ve since a few catches as good, or nearly so — a couple of examples — but none better. Willie owned center field. He owned a lot of National League pitchers as well, finishing his career with a .302 lifetime batting average, 3,282 hits, including 660 home runs. All of this without pharmaceutical assistance.
Happy birthday Willie. Many happy returns. And thanks for the memories.