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Say Hey! Get a Cup!

Willie Mays is celebrating his 80th birthday [1] today.

The Mets are having another [2] Collector’s Cup Night tonight.

Willie Mays began his Hall of Fame career at the age of 20 with the New York Giants, baseball ancestors of the New York Mets.

The cup [3] is orange.

Willie Mays hit his first home run 60 years ago this month off future Hall of Famer and New York Met Warren Spahn at the Polo Grounds, which would become the first home of the New York Mets.

The cup says “Mets”.

Willie Mays would win the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1951.

The cup also has a picture of Mr. Met.

Willie Mays was on deck when the greatest home run in baseball history ended the greatest game in baseball history to complete the greatest pennant race in baseball history, a duel that involved two teams based in the city of New York, the Giants and the other baseball ancestor of the New York Mets, the Brooklyn Dodgers. That pennant race, which culminated in Bobby Thomson [4]‘s “Shot Heard ‘Round The World” off Ralph Branca, was the signature episode of the signature era of National League baseball in New York, a period that loomed so large in the collective consciousness that it was agreed National League baseball simply had to return to New York a few short years after it was mistakenly allowed to physically disappear. Spiritually, it remained. The Mets exist because the Giants and Dodgers did [5]…because players like Willie Mays did…especially because players like Willie Mays did. Then again, there was no player quite like Willie Mays.

The cup also has a sponsor’s logo.

Willie Mays once turned around, ran like there was no tomorrow, tracked a fly ball to deepest center field in the outer expanses of the Polo Grounds and caught a ball that was destined to be at least a triple. In doing so, he turned around an entire World Series and helped send the New York National League franchise to the 1954 world championship.

The cup holds about 20 ounces of liquid.


Willie Mays and his basket catch, as caught by Daily News cartoonist Bruce Stark in 1973.

Willie Mays did so much so thrillingly as a New York Giant in the 1950s that Joan Payson, the owner of the New York Mets, made every effort to bring him back as a New York Met in the 1960s. She didn’t succeed until the 1970s, but when she did, Willie Mays put on a New York Mets uniform and captivated an entire city [7] when he homered to win his first game as a Met, against the Giants no less, in 1972.

The cup is the kind of cup you used to be able to get with a large soda.

Willie Mays at his peak could hit, hit with power, run, field and throw like no other player before him or after him. He showed that as a New York Giant. He gave only hints of it as an aging New York Met, but he was a New York Met [8]. The greatest player [9] baseball ever saw last saw him as a New York Met [10] helping his team to a pennant in 1973, just as he helped his New York Giant team to a pennant in 1951 and a world championship in 1954.

The cup can also hold pencils.

Willie Mays was honored by the New York Mets when they played at the Polo Grounds and he was a visitor from San Francisco. He was honored again by the New York Mets when they played at Shea Stadium and he had announced his imminent retirement. His “Willie, say goodbye to America” speech made for one of Shea’s most emotional moments [11].

The cup can hold any number of items, one supposes.

Willie Mays turns 80 today, just after the only two franchises for which he ever played, the Mets and the Giants, took part in a three-game series at Citi Field [12], where Willie Mays has yet to be acknowledged in any serious way [13].

The cup is plastic.

Happy 80th birthday to the Say Hey Kid. And enjoy Collector’s Cup Night tonight.