The Baseball Legend Got His MLB Start Right Here at Shibe Park.
It Couldn’t Have Been More Fitting.

On Tuesday, America lost a baseball trailblazer when Willie Mays passed away from heart failure at his home in Palo Alto, California, at the age of 93. Mays was perhaps the best American baseball player of all time. He was a 12x Gold Glover and a 24x All-Star, and in 1961, he hit four home runs in a single game. His career would feature 661 home runs.

The New York Giants of baseball were playing the Phillies right here at Shibe Park on May 25, 1951. The Center Fielder had been called up to the Majors, batting .477.

Willie Mays’ debut couldn’t have been more appropriate against the Phillies.

The 1951 Phillies were just one year removed from the “Whiz Kids” season, where the 1950 Philadelphia team, with an average age of 26.4, won the NL Championship. In 1951, the New York Giants and Willie Mays won the division.

The Phillies had already been in existence for 62 years by 1951. The oldest, continuous sports franchise in America came into Major League Baseball in 1882 as the Philadelphia Quakers. The “Phillies” were crowned the name in April of 1883, which still resonates today.

One of the most historically significant players in MLB history actually started his historic run again against one of the most historical teams in MLB history. Where better for a legendary player to begin a storied career than right here?

We aren’t really sure when baseballs started flying around Recreation Park’s 331-centimeter outfield in North Philly. It was in use in June 1860, when Equity defeated Pennsylvania 65–52.

PHOTO: WikiCommons

The original Philadelphia Athletics (also known as Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia) used Recreation Park as home beginning in 1860 up to their removal from the National League in 1876.

The Phillies played their first-ever game in April 1883 and defeated the Manayunk Ashlands 11–0 at Recreation Park. In 1886, the team moved to Philadelphia Baseball Park.

Mays would never play for Philadelphia or against them in the NL Playoffs. He would, however, play them in 363 regular-season games, hitting 61 home runs, 196 RBIs, and 53 stolen bases. That May Day in 1951 would mark the beginning of his incredible career, which started at Shibe Park and ended with a brief hitless streak.

Like many great American stories —one of the best baseball careers ever by one of the MLB’s best ever began right here in Philadelphia — at Shibe Park— in the heart of Center City.
The Giants would win the game that day in May of 1951 by a score of 8–5.

PHOTO: WikiCommons

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