The ‘five tool player’ is one of the highest compliments you can give a baseball player. It refers to someone who can hit with average, hit for power, run, shoot, and throw – all at an exceptional level. These guys are extremely rare. In today’s game, there are likely only three: Mookie Betts, Mike Trout and Julio Rodríguez.
Willie Mays was the first player to be described as such, and you could say he’s still the greatest Five-Instrument player of all time. Mace is 91 years old now, and generations of fans weren’t alive when he dominated the sport. HBO . Documentary Say hi, Willie Mays! Looks at a star who rose to fame in a changing America. The film is directed by Nelson George, with actor Colin Hanks as producer and LeBron James as executive producer.
If Mays (seen above in an interview for the film) isn’t the greatest baseball player alive, it’s Godson Barry Bonds. Each was featured in this 98-minute film. In many ways, you can’t talk about one without the other. Both were misunderstood sports geniuses, and the San Francisco Giants wouldn’t be the successful franchise they are today without the Mays and Bonds.
Mays was the National League MVP of the year when the then-New York Giants reached the 1951 World Championship and was the regular-season MVP on the 1954 World Championship Team. His famous Game 1 catch is still considered one of the greatest defensive plays of all time.
When the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958, the quarterback was the focus of the city’s new team. Mays became a star in the rise of the television age when seeing a black person on television was a rarity. Mays also became a star during turbulent racial times.
The face of the franchise should have been embraced on and off the field. This was not the case.
To illustrate this point, Bonds offers the documentary one of his best quotes.
“Willy has been through a lot of segregation, even here in San Francisco, where San Francisco is probably the most non-racial part of the state you can imagine,” he said. “They would shut down anything for equality here, which I really respect and love. But at some point, Willie went through with it.”
While San Francisco has a reputation for being welcoming, it wasn’t very welcoming to blacks at the time. No matter how famous. Say hi, Willie Mays! He mentions how Mays became one of the most notorious victims of housing discrimination.
The owner eventually sold Mays the house over the objections of the neighbors. As former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown said in the documentary, it helped spark a movement to integrate San Francisco.
As much as this hurts you, it can be painful to hear criticism from legend Jackie Robinson. Robinson publicly called out Mays, accusing him of not doing enough for the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Most Americans have heard of sports activists such as Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell. Robinson questioned Mays, even calling him “a nigger who does nothing.”
It was an unfair attack. Say hi, Willie Mays! It highlights the many ways Mays has worked, sometimes behind the scenes, to improve the lives of blacks. The 91-year-old Mays did not address Robinson’s fallout in the documentary, but several people rushed to his defense.
Among these was Brown, who spoke of the special burden for black athletes.
“Blacks have imposed on them the dual responsibility of not only representing all blacks but to make it comfortable even for some racists to interact without accepting the racist response at all: ‘You’re fine, but the rest aren’t.’ That’s kind of the way Willie Mays was treated. It became It was fine, but the rest were not. … We will not all be Muhammad Ali.”
Say hi, Willie Mays! It makes you think of difficult questions. What does it mean to be active? What is an acceptable activity? Are famous athletes obligated to do more? Perhaps HBO could have done a two-hour movie on these topics.
But this is a sports documentary. Ultimately, Mays’ legacy was that he was one of America’s greatest athletes. Even Mays says in the movie, “When I look at myself, I think of sports first.”
The two-time MVP Mays played a significant role in making Major League Baseball on the West Coast so important. Not only as a player. He influenced the Bonds to sign with the Giants as a free agent in 1992. The Bonds’ supremacy resulted in the team getting a home downtown. Oracle Park, built in 2000, is still one of the best venues in the sport.
Yes, Miss is a Hall of Fame. Say hi, Willie Mays! He explains why he’s more than just a pentathlon.
Say hi, Willie Mays! It will premiere on HBO on November 8 at 9PM EST/PT, and will also be available to stream on HBO Max.
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