Willie Howard Mays, popularly known in Major League Baseball as “The Say Hey Kid”, spent almost all of his 22-season career as a New York then San Francisco Giant before ending up with the New York Mets. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, in his only first year of eligibility.
Mays won two National League (NL) Most Valuable Player awards, ended his career with 660 home runs – third at the time of his retirement and currently fifth all-time – and won a record-tying 12 Gold Glove awards beginning in 1957, when the recognition was introduced, among others.
Mays shares the record of most All-Star Games played with 24, with Hank Aaron and Stan Musial. Mays’ career statistics and his longevity in the pre-performance-enhancing drugs era have drawn speculation that he may be the finest five-tool player ever, possibly, the greatest all-around player of all time.
One other thing that stuck to baseball fans’ minds up to this day was Mays belting out four home runs in one game, which he did in a three-game series with the Milwaukee Braves on April 30, 1961 while feeling ill.
May was in a batting slump. He was hitless in seven games a bat. In one of those games, Warren Spahn remarked afterward that he’d never seen Mays look so bad in the plate. “I could felt something was bothering him. He looked like he was having trouble holding his bat.”
Mays was heard complaining of persistent stomachache. On the eve of the game third and final meeting with the Braves, Mays and teammate McCovey went out for a midnight snack, after which, Mays couldn’t sleep complaining of sharp pain in his stomach. Later, McCovey found him sprawled on the floor unconscious.
Mays felt a little better the next day, but still couldn’t hit the ball in batting practice. Teammate Joe Amalfitano suggested he try his bat, which was a little heavier than Mays’.
By the time the game started Mays felt comfortable with the borrowed bat. Tough Braves hurler Lew Burdette was opposite Mays in his first time at bat and immediately swung on the latter’s slider sending the leather to left-center, 420-feet out of the fence. A home run! Isn’t he feeling well?
The same thing happened in the third frame, this time the ball went sailing 400-feet away. Another base-clearing shot! The third time the Giant center-fielder came to the batter’ box, a new pitcher, Seth Morehead greeted him with a sinker, which he caught flying 450-feet among the trees outside the stadium.
Moe Drabowsky succeeded though in stopping Mays home-runs spree next although the power-hitting batter connected but unable d to send the ball far enough. Came the eighth inning and the flame-throwing Don McMahon tried to duplicate where Drabowsky succeeded earlier. He didn’t, his slider was found later under the bushes, the same spot Mays cracked his third.
Only eight players since the turn of the century had done the trick Mays did. Only four others in nine-inning matchups. Mays drove in eight runs that day. One homer came with two on bases, two with one on, and another with none.
The last player to score four round-trippers in a single outing was Colavio in1959. No one has done the feat since Mays.
“That was easily he greatest day of my life,” Mays exclaimed after his extraordinary feat. “I was already beginning to feel nervous waiting. Funny thing, I wasn’t nervous when I hit the fourth homerun because I never dreamed I’d hit it. I know I wasn’t trying for t, I was just swinging.”
Mays’ five-homerun skein was recorded in a book titled “Baseball’s Great Moments” published in 1986.