Willie Mays hits his 512th career HR to break Mel Ott’s NL record
When Mel Ott debuted with the New York Giants as a 17-year-old phenom in 1926, Babe Ruth owned the baseball world.
Twenty-one years later, Ott owned 511 career home runs – the most in National League history and second to only American Leaguers Ruth and Jimmie Foxx on the career list.
On May 4, 1966 – 50 years ago this week – Ott was supplanted atop the NL charts by another Polo Grounds legend: Willie Mays.
A frustrated Mays was tied for the NL record with Ott for nine days. On Day 10, he would have to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose four-man rotation consisted of three future Hall of Famers – Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Don Sutton – and three-time All-Star Claude Osteen.
On that May day at Candlestick Park, Mays dug in against Osteen and struck out in both his first and second at-bats. When Mays came up in the fifth, Osteen was on a streak of 96 consecutive innings without giving up a home run.
Mays had previous success against Osteen, including two home runs the previous year, but so far was unable to put the ball in play during this game. If Mays was pressing in his third at-bat, he lost those jitters in a split second by sending the first pitch he saw from Osteen 380 feet into the right field bleachers.
“It was a really easy pitch for him to hit,” said Osteen. “But I’m not trying to take anything away from him. He reached a really great milestone.”
Kevin Stiner was the spring 2011 Public Relations intern for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum