Results tagged ‘ Willie Mays ’
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Willie Mays’ presence is just as powerful as it was when he stood in the batter’s box.
Baseball’s greatest living player made his first appearance of the spring at San Francisco’s camp Monday and immediately commanded awe upon entering the clubhouse. You simply have to appreciate being in the same room with a genuine legend — particularly one as lively as Mays, who loudly greeted visitors.
Veterans such as Todd Wellemeyer, Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, who had never seen Mays in the flesh, simply stared at the man. Players who previously had met Mays, such as Aaron Rowand and Kevin Frandsen, gleefully shook hands with him. Now the spring can begin, right?
Two rookies were especially intrepid. Outfielders Darren Ford and Thomas Neal, who hope to achieve a fraction of what Mays did as a Giant from 1951-72, sat for more than an hour with the Hall of Famer, absorbing advice — as well as some good-natured abuse.
Ford is 24 years old and has never played above Class A. Mays unabashedly recited some of the accomplishments he had piled up at the Major League level by the time he reached that age. Ford, perhaps the fastest player in the Giants organization, mentioned that he had won a stolen-base title; Mays reminded everyone within earshot that he led the National League in thefts four years in a row from 1956-59. “Then I quit,” Mays said, meaning that he ceased concentrating on stolen bases and focused more on slugging.
This was a you-had-to-be-there scene. Any comparison between Mays and Ford is certainly unfair. But Mays made all of this sound playful, not mean and condescending. The smile never left Ford’s face. Toward the conclusion of his visit, Neal and Ford had their fielding gloves on, listening to Mays — a 12-time Gold Glove Award winner — share secrets of his defensive excellence.
Roger Angell, one of the finest baseball writers ever, once wrote of Mays, perhaps the best all-around player ever, “The leader is still leading.” That was in a 1971 article. Some 39 years later, it’s still true.
– Chris Haft
Randy Winn wouldn’t care if he ever spoke to the media. That doesn’t mean he dislikes reporters. It’s just that he doesn’t crave attention.
But when anybody with a camera, microphone or notebook approached Winn during his four-and-a-half seasons with the Giants, he was cordial at the very least, thoughtful and engaging at his best and always — ALWAYS — accommodating. The phrase “no comment” didn’t exist in his vocabulary.
That’s part of the beauty of Randy Winn. While he surely appreciates the glory of being a Major Leaguer, he doesn’t coat himself in it. Beating his chest and declaring, “Look at me!” isn’t part of the job description for him. Rather, beating the other team is what it’s all about.
Unlike Bengie Molina, Winn wasn’t bound for a surprise return to San Francisco. Winn’s two home runs in 597 plate appearances during 2009 doomed him with the Giants, who were bent on upgrading their offense. His departure essentially became official Wednesday with the all-but-finalized news of his agreement on a one-year contract with the New York Yankees.
Yet Winn merits a final salute as he leaves San Francisco. The man was, and is, a complete professional. Winn delivered a consistent effort whether he was thriving or slumping, healthy or in pain. By driving himself to excel in all facets of the game — he’s an excellent baserunner and a polished, underrated outfielder — Winn separated himself from the sorry plethora of ballplayers who almost seem to refuse to improve themselves.
Body language says a lot about an athlete. That’s by definition, since they make their living with their bodies. Winn always carried himself like a U.S. Marine — focused, proud, intent on his impending tasks. It follows that a Marine veteran who’s one of my regular e-mail pen pals named Winn as his favorite all-time Giant. The earnest diligence Winn exuded impressed this man to no end.
Winn maintained that attitude behind closed doors. Some guys slouch or shuffle through the clubhouse; Winn held his head high, leveled his gaze, maintained an even stride and almost never limped, despite sustaining painful leg ailments (which was the only subject he refused to discuss). One exception occurred when Winn noticed a group of reporters and began hobbling, trying to trick us into seizing upon fake news.
Indeed, Winn had a healthy sense of humor. It showed in his feigned disdain for the “Good Guy Award,” given annually by reporters covering the team to the player whose cooperation is especially valued. This two-, three-year running gag between us and Winn ended last September when we voted him Good Guy for 2009. He clearly deserved it, and he seemed genuinely pleased.
Remember the familiar yet too-seldom-heard saying, “As good a ballplayer as he is, he’s an even better person”? Winn could be president of that club — along with Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts, two other veterans who recently became ex-Giants. How fitting that they became known among the Giants as the “Rat Pack,” a nod to the famed entertainment troika of Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Sammy Davis Jr. How sobering, though San Francisco’s clubhouse remains filled with truly decent men, that they’re all gone.
One of Winn’s classiest acts occurred early this offseason. During a November conditioning camp held for Minor Leaguers at AT&T Park, the Giants supplemented the physical regimen by bringing in speakers to motivate and educate the prospects. Guests included J.T. Snow, general manager Brian Sabean and even Willie Mays.
Another speaker was Winn, who was about to plunge into free agency and thus wasn’t technically a Giant. Yet he felt compelled to share some of the wisdom he had accumulated through 12 big league seasons. His message focused on the importance of being a good teammate.
That’s the essence of Randy Winn.
The Yankees will quickly learn how lucky they are to have Winn in their midst. His professionalism will enhance the Yankees’ aura as reigning World Champions. They’ll cherish his ability to play all three outfield positions and his other diverse skills. On that club, any offense he provides will be a bonus.
Winn will be free to go about his business while the ravenous New York media descends on Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and other Yankees stars.
But when reporters need to speak to Winn, he’ll answer any question they have.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants were graced Monday by the arrival of Willie Howard Mays, who needs no introduction.
Mays appeared in camp to begin his annual visit. As is often the case, he avoided giving formal interviews, though he reversed roles by eagerly quizzing reporters about Giants players.
Mays, who continues to revel in the company of ballplayers, welcomed shortstop Edgar Renteria to the Giants and chatted animatedly with left fielder Fred Lewis and infielder Emmanuel Burriss.
– Chris Haft