The Rookie Year.
When Willie Mays reported to the New York Giants in 1951 to play centerfield, it was his good fortune that there were two black outfielders, Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson, already on the team. The Giants were, along with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the only team really serious about desegregation. Perhaps because he felt relatively safe or because he had Irvin to mentor him, Mays's impact on the Giants was tremendous. His first and only hit in his first twenty-seven at bats was a home run that many claimed traveled six hundred feet; seven of his first ten hits were home runs. In Mays's rookie year the Giants made their remarkable comeback against the Dodgers; Mays was on deck when Bobby Thomson hit his famous home run, called "The shot heard 'round the world."
Mays's career was put on hold in 1952 when he went into the army. Without him the Giants fell to second in...
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