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Say Hey
Time Out 6-26-24

Every baseball fan, or sports fan for that matter, has had the conversation of “Who is the greatest baseball player of all time?” Folks will always throw out names like Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb and even Shohei Ohtani’s name pops up. However, the one name that most people will say if they are creating a list, is Willie Mays.

I am under 40 years old so I never got to see Mays play. However, I did study a lot of Mays footage and have become a huge fan of his and what his contributions were to the game that I love. I’ll never forget asking my dad who he thought was the greatest baseball player is. It was the spring of 2004. My dad and I were watching the Giants game together. He turned the television down and asked me to sit next to him. When I sat down, he looked me in the eyes and said; “Son, the greatest baseball player of all time is Hank Aaron; but make no mistake, the most talented player of all time is Willie Mays.” Those words stuck with me and as I type this up, I am misty-eyed. That’s the power of baseball. It connects us all on a level that unites us.

Later that summer, Chevron gas station came out with a line of baseballs. It was called “Giants Legends of the Game”. There were eight total balls and they were a bronze color with black laces and had black and white images of the players. Players included Mays, Orlando Cepeda, and Willie McCovey just to name a few. My dad bought me the collection, which I still have to this day. I display them proudly in my sports room and my eight-year-old son asked me about them a few months ago. He asked me “Why do they look like that?” and “Who are those guys?” I gave him the backstory about the unusual baseballs and I also gave him a brief history about the players.

We pulled up highlights of Willie Mays and even my son realized how special of a player he was. My son, who plays baseball for Oakdale Baseball Softball Association, said; “Wow, the way he basket catches the ball is crazy!” I paused the video and it took me back to the day my dad was telling me about Mays and how he believed he was the most talented player ever. I told my son that story. He replied “Well papa was a smart guy. He knew what he was talking about.”

Willie Mays passed away on June 18, 2024. The baseball world is currently mourning, the San Francisco Giants community and family are mourning. Even people who do not follow baseball, know who Willie Mays is. He made a huge impact in the game both on and off the field. We will always remember number 24.

The age-old debate will continue on about who the greatest player of all time is. But for me the conversation of who the most talented player is; will forever be Willie Mays.


Dennis D. Cruz is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.