Remembering Willie Mays Through 8 Legendary Baseball Cards

You can’t write about the history of baseball without Willie Mays. The “Say Hey Kid” is one of the greatest baseball players of all-time — if not the actual G.O.A.T. Mays, who died at the age of 93 on June 18, was a 24-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner, two-time National League Most Valuable Player, the 1951 N.L. Rookie of the Year, and a World Series champion in 1954 when he made “The Catch.”

Mays grew up in the segregated Deep South — born in Westfield, Alabama, in 1931. He made his professional debut at the tender age of 17 with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues and played his first Major League Baseball game when he was just 20 years old with the New York Giants. Mays would go on to become a legend on both coasts after the Giants moved to San Francisco prior to the 1958 season.

Mays, one of only four players with 600 home runs and 3,000 hits, will be honored by MLB Thursday at Rickwood Field in Birmingham when the Giants take on the St. Louis Cardinals. Rickwood Field, which housed the Birmingham Barons and the Birmingham Black Barons, is the oldest professional ballpark in the United States, being built in 1910.

To help honor Mays’ legacy, HobbyListings takes at look at best eight legendary cards of the Hall of Famer.

The List: Best Willie Mays Baseball Cards

1. 1952 Topps #261

1952 Topps Willie Mays
1952 Topps Willie Mays. (credit: eBay)

You have to start Mays’ baseball card history with his iconic 1952 Topps. It’s not his official rookie card, but it’s definitely his most coveted from the memorable set.

2. 1951 Bowman #305 Rookie

1951 Bowman Willie Mays rookie card
1951 Bowman Willie Mays rookie card. (credit: eBay)

Mays’ only rookie card comes from the 1951 Bowman set — the year he captured the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award after hitting .274, with 20 home runs and 68 runs batted in.

3. 1953 Topps #244

1953 Topps Willie Mays
1953 Topps Willie Mays. (credit: eBay)

Mays didn’t play in 1953 due to his military service but still was featured in that year’s Topps set.

4. 1954 Topps #90

1954 Topps Willie Mays
1954 Topps Willie Mays. (credit: eBay)

Mays captured his first MVP award in 1954, after hitting .345, with 41 home runs, 110 RBI and 119 runs scored. He also won his only World Series championship that year as he will forever be remembered for “The Catch.” In the eighth inning of Game 1 with the scored tied 2-2, Cleveland Indians’ Vic Wertz absolutely crushed a ball to one of the deepest parts of the Polo Grounds in dead center. That’s when Mays sprinted back to the warning track and made the greatest catch in baseball history with his over-the-shoulder basket catch that saved the game.

5. 1958 Topps #5

1958 Topps Willie Mays
1958 Topps Willie Mays. (credit: eBay)

Mays’ first San Francisco Giants baseball card came in the 1958 Topps set when the franchise moved from New York. In front of his new fans that year, Mays was the MVP runner-up, hitting .347, with 29 home runs, 96 RBI and 121 runs scored.

6. 1959 Topps “The Catch” #464

1959 Topps Willie Mays "The Catch"
1959 Topps Willie Mays “The Catch” (credit: eBay)

Topps made sure Mays’ iconic catch in the 1954 World Series lived on in card form as they paid homage to the moment in the 1959 set.

7. 1965 Topps #250

1965 Topps Willie Mays
1965 Topps Willie Mays. (credit: eBay)

In 1965, Mays captured his second MVP award — and his first after the team moved to San Francisco. That year, Mays led the league in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases.

8. 1973 Topps #305

1973 Topps Willie Mays
1973 Topps Willie Mays. (credit: eBay)

Mays’ 1973 Topps card was his last as an active player. A member of the New York Mets at the time, the Giants traded Mays in 1972 back to the city where his MLB career started. Mays was named an All-Star for a 24th time in his final season.

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