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Willie Mays wanted 1 more at-bat in the 1973 World Series before the `Say Hey Kid’ said goodbye

 The Associated Press  |    Jun 27th, 2024 6:09am EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — Willie Mays authored plenty of unforgettable moments during his Hall of Fame career. But he wanted one more World Series at-bat in October 1973.

The star center fielder’s son, Michael Mays, said Wednesday he was perplexed his father — who died June 18 at age 93 — didn’t get an opportunity to pinch hit for the New York Mets in the ninth inning of Game 7 against the Oakland Athletics.

With two runners on, two outs and the Mets down 5-2, Mays remained on the bench as Wayne Garrett popped out against Darold Knowles to end the Fall Classic. Garrett was 0 for 5 in Game 7 and hit .167 (5 for 30) with 11 strikeouts in the series.

Michael Mays said his father had a bat in his hands in the dugout.

“If I was (manager) Yogi (Berra), I’d have him swing,” Michael Mays said at Citi Field, where he threw out the first pitch before a Subway Series game between the Mets and Yankees. “At least walk out there. He’s Willie Mays. Put a bat in his hand.”

Willie Mays announced his pending retirement in September 1973 and went 2 for 7 in the World Series that year. He had the go-ahead RBI single in the 12th inning of the Mets’ 10-6 win in Game 2 and made his final plate appearance in Game 3 two days later, when he grounded out as a pinch hitter for pitcher Tug McGraw in the 10th inning of a 3-2 loss in 11 innings.

Michael Mays said his dad didn’t talk much about the final inning of his big league career.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Michael Mays said. “You brought that up, my father would say, ‘I don’t know too much about that.’ Not a real subject of interest to him. The moment was the moment.”

The visit to New York, where Willie Mays began his major league career and played with the Giants from 1951-57, continued an emotional whirlwind for his son. Michael Mays briefly addressed the Citi Field crowd and asked fans to “make some noise, let him hear you” in honor of his dad.

He did the same thing last Thursday, when Willie Mays was honored throughout the San Francisco Giants’ game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Rickwood Field in Willie’s native Alabama.

Michael Mays was in attendance at Mets Old-Timers’ Day on Aug. 27, 2022, when Willie’s No. 24 was retired by the team in a surprise ceremony. Joan Payson, who owned the Mets when Willie Mays was acquired from San Francisco in 1972, told him the club would eventually retire his number, but she died in 1975.

“Very tough to leave San Francisco,” Michael Mays said. “So to have Ms. Payson step in and make the promise and secure him — that’s how it was understood: He was coming home.”

Since his father’s death, Michael Mays said he’s been moved by the outpouring of affection from generations of baseball fans, most of whom didn’t see Willie’s trademark play — “The Catch” — as it happened live in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series at the Polo Grounds.

“His longevity was never in question,” Michael Mays said before pausing as his voice caught. “But I don’t think I was fully prepared for the overwhelming pride.

“The way he left us — maybe ‘The Catch’ isn’t the greatest play after all.”


AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

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The Associated Press