My summer as a young adult before going off to college was highlighted by a soundtrack that includes John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” and the Treniers’ “Say Hey (Willie Mays song).” I spent an hour before home games at Chukchansi Park listening to those songs while I waited in line for the gates to open. In the sweltering Fresno heat, I was happy because I was going to see some baseball being played. And with it being my first season going to so many games — especially minor league games — I was ecstatic.
I was always reminded of the Giants legend on various trips to the park. If I see the number 24, automatically, I think Willie. If I see a basket catch, I tend to try to compare it to The Catch — I can’t compare the throw, though. That’s his alone and incomparable in my opinion. I remember dancing by the box office at the Chuk and singing “Say Hey” while waiting for the gates to open. It’s a ridiculous sight, I assure you.
I’m half a year to 20. I never got the amazing chance to see Willie play. I’d heard all the stories about him playing at the Polo Grounds, then Candlestick. But then you hear what he had to say about the Giants winning it all in 2010 and you can’t help but tear up. I know I did.
“Oh, man, I don’t get overly excited about baseball, but looking at these kids and how excited they were, I had some tears in my eyes,” Willie Mays said from his Peninsula home shortly afterÂ the Giants won the World Series on Monday night, “because you never know, this might be the last time something like this happens to some of these kids. It’s a wonderful feeling for me, and I’m sure it’s a wonderful feeling for these kids and their families.”
He never got to win a ring with the team after making the move from New York to San Francisco. But his presence has never left the team. Seeing him at the parade, going down the parade route and being part of the overall celebration, you just can’t help but think that he’s part of the win.
And rightfully so.
Say hey, Willie. It’s your 80th birthday. Have a great one!