One Nation under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime

By John Florio; Ouisie Shapiro | Go to book overview

6

The Giants’ Willie Mays had finished the 1963 season with a .314 batting average, 38 home runs, and 103 RBIs. For most players, numbers like those would be cause for celebration. For Mays, they were standard fare. Since earning Rookie of the Year honors in 1951, he’d won an MVP award and two home run titles. The perennial All-Star had also hit over .300 nine times and topped 100 RBIs seven times.

So it wasn’t surprising when, in January 1964, Giants owner Horace Stoneham made Mays the highest- paid player in the game— at an eyepopping $105,000 per season.

As Wendell Smith wrote in the Pittsburgh Courier, “there are certified public accountants who will tell you, ‘No baseball player is worth that much money. In fact, no two baseball players are worth $105,000.’”

But Smith went on to quote Stoneham: “[Mays] is worth every penny of it. In fact, he might be worth more, but that’s all I can afford.”

Actually, it may have been more than Stoneham wanted to spend. He’d originally intended on paying Mays one hundred thousand dollars, but when he heard Mickey Mantle was getting six figures, he’d opened his wallet and given Mays an additional five thousand dollars. In Stoneham’s words, “Willie is not second.”

The Giants’ owner wasn’t alone in his evaluation of Mays. Most baseball insiders—including the players themselves— acknowledged that Mays was the consummate athlete.

As Smith saw it, “Mickey Mantle, often advertised as the ‘game’s greatest player,’ gets more publicity than Willie, but it must be remembered that the Yankee star is ‘sold’ by the game’s greatest propaganda machinery. Madison Avenue’s famous advertising agencies have nothing on the Yankees’ publicity factory.”

Stoneham was smitten with Mays right from the start. When the team called him up from the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers in 1951, the

-51-

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One Nation under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword Bob Costas vii
  • A Note to the Reader ix
  • 1 1
  • 2 8
  • 3 23
  • 4 31
  • 5 43
  • 6 51
  • 7 58
  • 8 65
  • 9 72
  • 10 86
  • 11 100
  • 12 111
  • 13 126
  • 14 129
  • 15 138
  • 16 150
  • 17 156
  • 18 164
  • 19 173
  • 20 180
  • 21 192
  • Epilogue- 1975 201
  • Acknowledgments 203
  • Bibliography 205
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