Here's Your Chance to Meet Willie Mays

Not that long ago, it was common for Major League Baseball players — All-Stars and minor leaguers alike — to hold day-jobs in the off-season so they could pay the bills. There was no players union, and there was no minimum salary. Baseball did have heroes and celebrities, but they were paid abysmal wages most of the time. And when players' careers were done, they were on their own in terms of health care.

Giants legend Willie Mays played during this era, and we're sure he knows players who had to struggle to get by. Mays is scheduled to appear this spring at a tavern near AT&T Park to help raise money for older people with lower incomes. Entry to the event isn't cheap — tickets start at $120 — but it benefits the Institute on Aging, and it's a rare chance to meet a Giants legend face to face and have him autograph your cap, jersey, ball, or baseball card.

As Giants go, there are none truer than Mays, who turns 81 on May 6. There's a statue of him outside AT&T Park, and the street where the park was built carries his name — Willie Mays Plaza. He began his career in the Negro Leagues in the mid-1940s, joining the New York Giants in 1951 and moving with the team to San Francisco in 1958, where he stayed until 1972. The outfielder is probably best remembered for “the catch,” a play he made in the 1954 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. Mays raced toward the outfield wall chasing a deep fly ball and made the catch over his shoulder as he ran.

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