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If you like Willie Mays's story, you might also like:
Hank Aaron,
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,
Yogi Berra,
Julius Erving,
Frank M. Johnson,
B.B. King,
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Peyton Manning,
Pete Rozelle,
Bill Russell,
Herschel Walker
and Andrew Young

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Willie Mays
Willie Mays
Profile of Willie Mays Biography of Willie Mays Interview with Willie Mays Willie Mays Photo Gallery

Willie Mays Interview (page: 2 / 8)

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  Willie Mays

When did you know you had this special talent?

Willie Mays Interview Photo
Willie Mays: I knew that when I was ten or 12. Basketball teams in high school, you can't play until like 11th or 12th grade. But I was playing on the high school team when I was in the ninth grade. I played one year of football, one year of basketball, one year of football. I started playing professional baseball at that time. The principal said to me, "Why don't you quit baseball and come back and play at the high school." I wasn't making any money, but we used to have a full house at all times, especially when I played. My father, said, "You play where you want to play, and you do the best you can, whatever you want to do."

How did you get to be so good, so soon?

Willie Mays: I don't know. It wasn't hard. It wasn't anything that I had to look for. I could throw a football farther, could throw a baseball farther than anybody in my community, or anybody around that area. Basketball, I would score 20 points and stop, that was enough. I was probably one of the best basketball players in my area. How did I get there? I really don't know. I just did what I had to do. Some guys that are so-called superstars can't tell you how they do things. It's creative, you just do it. Whatever comes out, it comes out good.

What did you like most about baseball?

Willie Mays: Defense to me is the key to playing baseball. I know people say, "Well, you've got to score runs," but you've got to stop them before you can score runs. And, I used to love to run down a fly ball. I used to love to throw a guy out. But of course, I played good offense too. But I just felt baseball was a beautiful game, especially at night. The sun -- I mean, you had the lights out there and all you do is go out there, and you're out there by yourself in center field, and it's just a beautiful game. And, I just felt that it was such a beautiful game that I just wanted to play it forever, you know.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

Willie Mays Interview Photo
When I was in Birmingham I used to go to a place called Redwood Field. I used to get there for a two o'clock game. Where can you make this kind of money playing sports? It was just a pleasure to go out and enjoy myself and get paid for it. I didn't understand why people didn't want to play. When I got to professional ball I used to play 150 games every year. It depends on how many games there was. I would try and help everybody, because the game was so easy for me. It was just like walking in the park.

There must have been hard work involved. Didn't you have to practice?

Willie Mays: I never had any training. I never had a guy say to me, "Do it this way, do it that way." When I was growing up, I was the last guy to get picked for every team that I was on. If they needed a pitcher, I pitched. If there was a catcher needed, I caught. First baseman, shortstop, whatever position they needed, that's what I played. I felt I was the best all-around athlete on that particular team. Most of them couldn't do that, everybody wanted to play a position. It didn't matter what position I played. I just had fun and enjoyed it.

Didn't you have to work to stay in shape?

Willie Mays: Let me tell you something.

I came out of the Army in 1954. I had played in the Army. I hadn't played for I would say about five months because in Newport News, Virginia, where I was located we didn't play from September until around April. I got out of the Army three months early. I get out (at the) end of February, I show up at spring training. I get there at 12 o'clock, the game started at 1:05. Leo said, "Go put on a uniform." I go put on a uniform. I'm getting off the plane, now. I haven't thrown a ball, haven't seen a ball in five months. I put on. He said, "You want to play?" I said, "Okay. I'll go out." The first ball hit was over my head, against the fence. This was in Phoenix now, it was on Central Avenue. The next ball hit through the middle, I threw out a runner going in third. The next ball -- then Leo said, "Gee, you want to hit?" First time up, home run.

Willie Mays Interview Photo

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This page last revised on Dec 06, 2013 13:13 EDT
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