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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,
Coretta Scott King,
Peyton Manning,
Pete Rozelle,
Bill Russell,
Herschel Walker
and Andrew Young

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National Baseball Hall of Fame
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Willie Mays
Willie Mays
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Willie Mays Interview (page: 8 / 8)

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  Willie Mays

Do you remember wanting to be anything but a ballplayer?

Willie Mays: In the South you only had certain things you could do. If you didn't play a sport, what could we do? When baseball season was over, we played basketball till 11 or 12 o'clock at night. Baseball season, we played 'til late afternoon. Football we played -- especially in the summer -- you could play up to around eight -- nine o'clock. So we played every day. I used to play on the high school team, and then go play sandlot ball on Sundays, without any shoulder pads and things. We didn't have no shoes, I used to kick barefooted. You know, 50 -- 60 yards. I used to kick the ball hard, you know. I didn't kick-off too much without shoes. I used to kick it, but on the side -- spiral.

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Did you imagine you'd achieve this greatness?

Willie Mays: I think if you start thinking that way, you don't achieve anything. You cannot look ahead and say, "This is what I'm going to be in 20 or 30 years." It doesn't work that way. You can have goals for 20 or 30 years. My goal was to get into the Hall of Fame. Once you get into the Hall of Fame, you know you did something good in baseball. That was my goal. But to sit down and say, at age 15, that in 20 or 30 years you're going to be in the Hall of Fame? No, I don't think you can think that far ahead. If you're thinking so far ahead, you forget to do things.

Do sports heroes have a responsibility to young people?

Willie Mays Interview Photo
Willie Mays: No. I think the responsibility comes from your families, just like mine. I had guys I admired: Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and later Jackie Robinson, but your mother and father are the ones that have got to teach you right from wrong. You can admire whoever you want to admire, but that person is not going to teach you. You can try to emulate whatever he does, but your mother and father are going to be there with you every day, day in and day out. They are your heroes, I feel. My father was my hero.

What one thing would you say to young people today?

Willie Mays: I would say the main thing in any young kid's life is education. Even if a guy is prejudiced, he can be educated to understand why he is prejudiced. Education plays a great role in all life, whether you're black or white. You've got to go to high school, you've got to go to college. When you come out of college or high school, you can play sports. If you ever get hurt, they can't take that brain away from you, you've got that. You can sit in a wheelchair and still operate a machine or a computer, if you're educated enough to do all that. Let's turn that around. If I'm just playing sports and I get hurt, what do I do? I can't run a machine, I can't type, I can't go out and talk to kids. I'm not educated enough to do that. So education is very, very important as far as I'm concerned.

What does the American Dream mean to you?

Willie Mays Interview Photo
Willie Mays: My American Dream, speaking for myself now, starting back as a kid, looking at the progress that we have made as far as blacks are concerned, starting with Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, and moving up. Having a black kid like myself move into sports, be the number one guy in sports. Having Dr. King come in and turn part of the world around from wrong to right. Being able to come from Birmingham and live the way I do, not knowing that I would ever have a home the way I have. Not knowing that I would ever be in a position to help other people the way I want to help them.

The American Dream can come in many different ways for many different people. It doesn't have to come in the way they explain it to you. Now, the American Dream can come if a guy hits the lottery. Who in the world thought he would hit a lottery? That's the American Dream for him. But I look at it from day one, moving up the ladder, and moving up the ladder. Now you get to the top of the ladder and you have to look back. How did you get to that ladder? To me, that's the American Dream. And going through the American Dream you have to go through stages. That's what I'm saying about education. Hopefully, the kids can have their own American Dream. Then they can look back and say, "I'm educated enough to understand about what he was trying to tell us. Now I can understand a little bit more about it." The American Dream is a very powerful word. That's very powerful, I think.

Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

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