They know he hit 660 career home runs. They know he made "The Catch" in the vast Polo Grounds outfield during the 1954 World Series that fueled the New York Giants to a championship. They know "The Say Hey Kid" was perhaps the best all-around baseball player to ever play the game.
But beyond the dazzling catches where the outfield wall played victim or the tape-measure homers, there are some thing you might not have known about the Hall of Famer.
- Mays is the only player to ever hit a home run every inning from one to 16 throughout his career, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. Here's the Society's inning-by-inning chart. His 16th-inning home run came on July 2, 1963 at Candlestick Park against Milwaukee Braves starter Warren Spahn (yes, Spahn started the game and pitched 15.1 shutout innings). Mays' solo-shot was a walk-off, and the Giants won 1-0. Giants starter Juan Marichal pitched 16 shutout innings in that game.
- Mays' first big-league hit was a home run off Spahn too, when the Hall of Fame pitcher was playing for the Boston Braves. Mays went hitless in his first 12 career at-bats, until May 28, 1951 when he hit a home run at the Polo Grounds. Spahn later joked, "I'll never forgive myself. We might have gotten rid of Willie forever if I'd only struck him out." And he still hasn't gotten rid of Willie. He can be seen today frequenting AT&T Park. And don't forget about the statue forever memorializing the Giants' great outside the ballpark.
- Willie Mays may have become more humble in his later years, but not during his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1979. When he was asked whom he considered the best player he ever saw when he played, he said, "I don't mean to be bashful, but I was." And he was probably right--and still is.
Stats and info from ESPN, Baseball Almanac, and "100 Things Giants Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" by Bill Chastain.
Follow Vince on Twitter @vintalkingiants.