On the anniversary of Willie Mays making “The Catch” in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series at the Polo Grounds, Major League Baseball has announced it is naming the World Series Most Valuable Player Award in his honor. The award will now be called the “Willie Mays World Series MVP Award.”
Mays holds a special memory in my baseball experience.
I attended my first Major League Baseball game in 1972, just weeks after the New York Mets acquired Mays from the San Francisco Giants. I was seven years old when my dad and brother took me to Shea Stadium to see the Mets play the Cincinnati Reds. Mays started in center field. Now, when I ask baseball fans and friends if they ever saw Mays play live, few say yes.
While the memories are fuzzy, I do have some footage of the experience that was transferred from 8mm film to digital. When I watch it, I feel like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation. You remember the scene when he is locked in the attic and he sets up a projector, right? Ray Charles “Spirit of Christmas” playing. Chase wide-eyed one moment, then weeping the next as he watches old family films.
I confess, when I watch my seven-year old self, I turn into Chevy Chase — without the fur stole and chic women’s gloves/hat, of course.
But, I digress.
Coincidentally, the World Series MVP was first awarded in 1955, the year after Mays’ catch. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement:
Since making ‘The Catch’ on Sept. 29, 1954, Willie has been a part of World Series history. This annual recognition will forever celebrate the life and career of a legend of the national pastime.