Mays reaches new heights with four-homer game

Written by: Craig Muder

In his first 15 games of the 1961 season, Willie Mays accounted for two home runs and six RBI.

But on April 30, 1961, in game No. 16, Mays topped both those totals in an afternoon for the ages at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.

Mays became the ninth player in big league history to hit four home runs in one game, driving in eight runs in the process as Mays’ Giants defeated the Braves 14-4.

“I went out early to see him in batting practice,” said Hall of Famer Robin Roberts of Mays during outfielder’s rookie season. “And he hit about five balls in the upper deck. Then he went out in the outfield and he could just run like the wind. And I remember thinking his has got to be as good looking a baseball player as I ever saw.

"And it turned out he was the best player I ever saw.”

Mays began his four-homer effort in the first inning with a solo shot off Braves’ starter Lew Burdette. After a Henry Aaron home run gave Milwaukee a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first, Mays put the Giants in front 4-3 with a two-run blast in the third which scored Jim Davenport.

After flying out to center in the fifth inning, Mays connected for a three-run home run in the sixth inning off Seth Morehead to score Chuck Hiller and Davenport, giving the Giants an 11-3 lead and effectively putting the game out of reach.

Then in the eighth, Mays homered off Don McMahon – a two-run shot that scored Davenport for the third time. Davenport grounded out to second to send the top of the ninth, leaving Mays on deck without another at-bat that might have produced a fifth home run.

Mays did all the damage with a Willie Mays-model bat borrowed from teammate Joey Amalfitano. After suffering from an apparent attack of food poisoning the night before, Mays felt so weak that he initially asked Giants manager Alvin Dark to be taken out of the lineup on April 30. But after trying Amalfitano’s lighter bat in batting practice, Mays decided to play.

Today, the history-making bat is a part of the permanent collection at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Mays went on to finish his career with 660 home runs, making him the member of the four-home run club with the most career round-trippers.

“Mays is the greatest ballplayer that ever lived,” said former teammate and Hall of Famer Monte Irvin.

Mays was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1979.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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