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Letters to the Editor

Remembering Willie Mays…The Say Hey Kid

The late Arnold Hano, author of “A Day in the Bleachers,” and I shared a love of baseball and reverence for one player in particular. That, of course, was Willie Mays. From the very first day I watched Willie play ball at Seals Stadium in 1959, I was hooked. By the time I graduated from high school in 1966, I proudly displayed 15 framed pictures of The Say Hey Kid on my bedroom walls.

No one played baseball like Willie. His love of the game was infectious. My friends and I routinely poured over the San Francisco Chronicle Sporting Green and quoted his stats all day long. Willie wasn’t just a terrific fielder, he had blazing speed and a cannon for an arm. I’m guessing Arnold would agree with me that if Willie hadn’t been forced to stand in center all those cold, windy nights at Candlestick, he easily would have hit more than 700 home runs.

Today’s stars, like Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and Aaron Judge, truly are talented players; but, they don’t play baseball like Willie did. A 24-year All Star and two-time MVP, The Say Hey Kid was my idol. I wish my sons, who are 44 and 32, could have seen him play. If they had, they would know why I tell everyone Willie was “poetry on the diamond.” For this 75-year-old baseball wannabe, there will never be another Willie Mays, the greatest player of Arnold’s generation or mine.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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