Some call him the best all-around baseball player of all time, and most would agree that he is the greatest player alive today. Born on this date in 1931, Willie Mays grew up in Westfield, Alabama and played in the Negro Leagues as a teenager. Scouts for the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers passed on their chances to recruit him and he signed with the New York Giants in 1950. In 1951, he made it to the major leagues and had a Hall of Fame career with the New York/San Francisco Giants and New York Mets over the next 23 years. Nobody could hit, run, and field like the legendary Willie Mays.
An excellent new biography of Mays was released earlier this year and looks to be the definitive record of his life. Author James S. Hirsch interviewed Mays extensively for the book, and includes many new stories and revelations from the man whose name is synonymous with all-out effort and baseball talent. Mays' career began in a golden era of baseball in New York, when there were three teams for fans to choose among and the rivalries were deep and bitter (see below for our favorite books on the topic). But even the most die-hard Yankees and Dodgers fans knew that Willie Mays was a Giant among men. Today, he's Major League Baseball's greatest ambassador, lives close to the Giants' ballpark in San Francisco, and is known for giving out autographed baseballs to trick-or-treaters. Thanks to this new biography, Willie Mays is back in the spotlight -- happy birthday and many more to #24!