By Shannan Ferry
City officials celebrate the life of a baseball legend by pitching up a permanent tribute. NY1’s Shannan Ferry was there and has the story from Harlem.
A lot has changed in Harlem since the 1950’s — it’s been sixty years since the New York Giants called this neighborhood home.
But on Friday, city officials honored the past — and one man in particular, renaming the corner of West 155th Street and The Harlem River Drive after Willie Mays, the baseball great who began his career with the Giants at the nearby Polo Grounds — and lived in the neighborhood, too.
“I mean how many guys brought a World Series, to Harlem?!” asked Jacob Morris, director of the Harlem Historical Society.
The ceremony came on the 63rd anniversary of a magic Mays moment.
His iconic over-the-shoulder catch in Game One of the 1954 World Series against the Cleveland Indians at the Polo Grounds.
The ‘Say Hey’ kid spent six years with the Giants here through the 1957 season, then moved with the team to San Francisco, where he played until ending his career back in New York with the Mets in 1973.
His son Michael Mays says he and his dad who is 86 are thrilled by this honor, because Harlem is where it all began.
“You can’t beat the pride,” the younger Mays said. “He’s a person in history, he’s a significant person, he’s in the white house, and a medal of honor, I mean the achievements in his life, it’s incredible.”
Organizers say they hope the street sign also inspires the younger generation. Some young players we spoke with say seeing it right here in Harlem, makes them even more motivated.
“Now just want to be like him, especially I’m an outfielder he was an outfielder, so that inspired me to look at videos and try to be like him,” said Wanter Martin, a high school junior.
This is not the only new honor for Mays. Major League Baseball announced Friday that the World Series MVP award will be named the “Willie Mays World Series Most Valuable Player.”
And from this ceremony near the old Polo Grounds, it is clear Mays is still an MVP to Harlem.