Mays joins 500-home run club

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Steven Walters

Willie Mays was well on his way to his second National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1965 when he reached a milestone that only four players had previously achieved.

On Sept. 13, 1965, Mays hit his 500th home run to join Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams and Mel Ott as a member of the 500-home run club.

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The “Say Hey Kid” was working on one of the best seasons of his career in 1965. The 34-year-old Mays carried a .317 average and 46 home runs into the Sept. 13 game against the Houston Astros. He blasted his 499th home run the night before in the second game of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs.

The Giants were enjoying success in 1965 as well, holding on to a two-game lead over the rival Dodgers in the National League. Facing the second-to-last Astros in a three-game series presented an opportunity for the Giants to build their lead down the stretch.

Mays batted in the first inning and faced Don Nottebart. The right-handed hitting Mays was already 4-for-4 with a double, a home run and five RBI on the season against Nottebart, though Nottebart would retire Mays in the first inning on a pop up.

Leading off the top of the fourth, Mays regained his previous form against Nottebart, launching a home run for his 500th career round tripper. The home run tied the game at 1-1, opening the door for a Giants rally. Each of the next three hitters reached safely and the Giants would score three more runs to take the lead 4-1.

The home run was Mays’ only hit in the game, but it was enough as the Giants won 5-1 behind a complete game effort by Juan Marichal. Mays would hit No. 501 one day later against the Astros with a two-out ninth inning home run to tie the game at 5-5.

Though the Giants completed the three-game sweep of the Astros, they would finish the season two games back of the Dodgers for the National League pennant.

Mays received 224 first-place votes to capture his second NL MVP Award.

He led the league in home runs (52), on-base percentage (.398), slugging percentage (.645), OPS (1.043) and total bases (360), while recording a .317 batting average and 112 RBI.

Four years later, on Sept. 22, 1969, Mays reached the 600 home run plateau with a two-run shot of San Diego’s Mike Corkins.

The 24-time all-star retired with 660 home runs, good for third all-time at the time of his retirement following the 1973 season.

He led his league in home runs four times and totaled 14 seasons of 25-or-more home runs.

More than just an offensive threat, Mays won 12 straight Gold Glove Awards from 1957 to 1968 for his work in the outfield.

In 1979, Mays’ accomplishments earned him a plaque in Cooperstown.


Steven Walters was the 2018 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series