Timeline Description: Willie Mays (born May 6, 1931) is an American professional baseball player who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979. He ended his career with a record number of MVP games (Most Valuable Player) and 660 homeruns, which was third for the time, and currently fourth. He is considered by many to have been the greatest all around baseball player of all time.
|May 6, 1931||Willie Mays is born in Westfield, Alabama.
On May 6, 1931, Willie Mays is born the son of William Howard Taft (named after the President) and Annie Satterwhite. His father is a talented player on the local Negro team who exposes Mays to baseball at a young age by playing catch and taking him to his games.
|1947||Mays begins his professional career.
Though still in high school, Mays joins the Chattanooga Choo-Choos, a Tennessee professional team in the American Negro Leagues over the summer. He quickly transfers back to his home state to join the Birmingham Black Barons, where he helped them advance to the Negro World Series.
|June 21, 1950||Mays is signed to the New York Giants.
After attracting attention during his time on the Black Barons, Mays is scouted by many professional teams. Eventually, The New York Giants win his deal and agree to pay 10,000 dollars to the Black Barons and 4,000 to Mays himself. He is assigned to their class-B affiliate in Trenton, New Jersey.
|May 24, 1951||Mays is called up to the Giants.
After spending time playing in Trenton, NJ and the Minneapolis Millers, Mays famously receives the news when it flashes across the screen at a movie theater he is attending. He appears in his first major league game the next day in Philadelphia.
|1951||Mays wins the Rookie of the Year award.
Although his first season with the Giants starts slowly, he picks up steam and finds success, including helping the Giants win the pennant against the Dodgers. He also helps take them to the World Series against the New York Yankees (though they lose 4-2). His overall strong performance during the season, including his skilled throwing and fielding, wins him the title Rookie of the Year. He also gains popularity in Harlem, notably for being photographed playing stickball with children in the streets.
|1952||Mays is drafted by the US Army.
During the Korean War, Mays is drafted, but spends most of his time playing baseball at Fort Eustis in Virginia.
|1954||Mays returns to the Giants.
Mays successfully returns to the Giants and wins both the Most Valuable Player award and the Hickok Belt for top professional athlete of the year. He also helps the Giants win the 1954 World Series in a four game sweep against the Cleveland Indians, during which he performs the iconic play referred to as "The Catch." This is an over-the-shoulder running grab deep in center field that prevents the Indians from breaking a tie game, and later allows Mays to score the winning run. "The Catch" becomes the defining moment of Mays' career, and one of the most memorable plays in baseball history.
|1956||Mays marries Margherite Wendell Chapman.
In 1956 Mays marries Margherite Wendell Chapman, who has been married twice before, including to the lead singer of the band the Ink Spots. It is reported that he uses the largest diamond from his Hickok Belt in his engagement ring. Their marriage lasts between six to seven years before ending in divorce.
|1957||Mays and the Giants relocate to San Francisco.
In 1957 the Giants relocate to San Francisco, which starts a slump in the Giants' performance. Though still competitive, they fail to perform at their previous level.
|1958||Mays and Chapman adopt Michael Mays.
In 1958, Mays and his first wife, Margherite Wendell Chapman, adopt son Michael Mays.
|1961||Alvin Dark hired to manage the Giants.
Alvin Dark is hired to manage the Giants before the start of the 1961 season, and one of his major moves is to name Mays team captain. The change in leadership starts to shift the Giants' performance, and Mays plays the best game of his career on April 30 against the Milwaukee Braves, in which he hits four home runs.
|November 27, 1971||Mays marries Mae Louise Allen.
After his famed four-hitter, Ed Sullivan flies Mays to New York to be on his talk show that night. After the show, he goes to Wilt Chamberlain's nightclub to celebrate, where the basketball player introduces him to Mae Louise Allen. They start dating and get married on November 27, 1971.
|May 1972||Mays is traded to the New York Mets.
Due to the fact that the Giants are losing money, they can no longer guarantee Mays a position after retirement. The Mets, on the other hand, offer him a coaching position, due to the strength of his popularity in New York, and in May 1972 he is traded to the team.
|October 21, 1973||Mays plays the last game of his career.
Mays only plays with the Mets for about a season and a half. He finishes his career at the World Series, where the Mets lose to the Oakland Athletics. He retires with a lifetime batting average of .302, and 660 home runs.
|January 23, 1979||Mays is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Mays is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first year he is eligible, winning about 95% of the ballots.