Dennis Thomas: Say hey, happy birthday

May 9, 2014 

Mays at Polo Grounds Baseball

Willie Mays sits in front of a photo of himself playing stickball at the San Francisco Giants' 2010 World Series trophy display tour event on Friday, Jan. 21, 2011 at the Arthur Tappan School P.S. 46 in Harlem, New York. The school is near the site of the old Polo Grounds, where Mays made his famous catch, simply called "The Catch," to help the Giants win the 1954 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. The Giants and Mays moved to San Francisco in 1957.

(BEBETO MATTHEWS / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Say hey, happy birthday

My lifelong hero celebrated his 83rd birthday on May 6. He is probably the greatest baseball player to ever play the game. His accomplishments are legendary. His knowledge, confidence and pure physical ability in baseball have never been equaled. Growing up in the Valley, it was difficult to see major league baseball when I was a kid. That is until the Dodgers and Giants moved west in 1958. Now my hero was only 100 miles away. Whether the Giants won or lost, I would always check the box scores in The Bee. I could listen to the games on the radio and hopefully “The Game of the Week” on TV. Then in 1961 my Giants played the Yankees for the World Championship. Fortunately, there was a rare rainout in S.F. So both teams came down to Del Webb Field (now Thurman Field) to work out. I got to meet Willie and he signed my “Willie Mays” baseball glove. I still have it and it is still one of my most cherished possessions. So, Willie, happy birthday. You have made me and countless others baseball fans for life. You are an inspiration and a treasure.

DENNIS THOMAS

Modesto

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