It was the spring of 1951 when the amazing Willie Mays, the “Say Hey” kid, thrilled Minneapolis baseball fans.
Willie, who turned 89 this past week, played 35 games for the triple A Minneapolis Millers that spring.
Miller fans packed old Nicollet park at 31st and Nicollet Avenue to see this young phenom from Alabama play ball. Willie didn’t disappoint. He hit .477, hit 8 home runs and recorded 30 RBIs over the course of those 35 games. Of course, when you compile numbers like those, someone is going to notice.
The New York Giants noticed and it was a phone call from Giants skipper Leo “The Lip” Durocher which ended Willie’s Minneapolis playing days. Willie was called up to the big show to begin his Hall of Fame Major League career.
Willie would return to Minnesota to play in the 1965 All Star game at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. Willie led off the game with a home run and The National League went on to win 6-5.
Baseball fans will enjoy reading “Say Hey, the autobiography of Willie Mays” which was co-written by baseball scribe Lou Sahadi. You should be able to find it on-line.
A Wells Fargo Bank now occupies the site of old Nicollet Park at 31st and Nicollet in Minneapolis. The ball park was torn down in 1956 and The Millers moved out to Bloomington to play in the partially constructed Metropolitan Stadium. The Millers were then disbanded when Calvin Griffith moved his Washington Senators and brought Major League Baseball to Minnesota in 1961.
Willie’s stay in Minnesota was a short one but, there’s no doubt about it, Minnesota and The Millers provided a launching pad for one of Baseball’s brightest stars.
Happy birthday Willie!!