Mays wins second NL MVP 11 years after first

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

He was widely considered baseball’s greatest player by the mid-1960s, so Willie Mays needed no affirmation that comes from even the most prestigious award.

But by 1965, 10 seasons had come and gone since Mays won the National League’s MVP. And during those 10 seasons, no one was more consistently excellent than the Giants center fielder.

So when Mays won the 1965 NL Most Valuable Player Award, it seemed as if the game had repaid a debt to its biggest star.

“It’s really something to get the award because in this league there are lots of good players,” Mays told the Associated Press on Nov. 10, 1965, after winning the MVP. “It’s a special pleasure because the award is one every player likes to win.”

Mays received nine first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters, with the other 11 split between the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax (six) and Maury Wills (five). Mays let the NL with a career-high 52 home runs, a .398 on-base percentage, a .645 slugging average and 360 total bases while collecting his ninth Gold Glove Award in center field.

He hit his career-best 52nd homer on the season’s final day.

“I’m 34 now. I’m not going to get strong. I’m going to get weaker,” Mays told the AP. “I was tired at the end of the season. It was a real strain that last day. All I was trying to do was hit a home run.”

In 1954, Mays led the Giants to the World Series title by hitting .345 with 41 home runs and 110 RBI en route to MVP honors. In the 10 seasons from 1955-64, Mays led all players with 388 home runs, 93 triples and 1,184 runs.

“I felt I made more of a contribution to the team this year than in 1954 because I was young then,” said Mays, whose Giants finished two games behind the Dodgers in the NL pennant race in 1965 with a record of 95-67. “Leo Durocher was the manager (in 1954), and he did most of the talking. I’m a veteran now, and I can help other players.”

For the 34-year-old Mays, the 1965 campaign would be his last as a .300 hitter (for a total of 10 seasons) and his last scoring at least 100 runs (12 seasons). But he would continue to be a productive player for many years, helping the Giants win the 1971 NL West title as a 40-year-old regular in center field.

He would retire following the 1973 campaign – having played his last year-and-a-half with the Mets – with a .302 batting average, 660 home runs, 2,062 runs scored, 1,903 RBI, 3,283 hits, 12 Gold Glove Awards and 24 All-Star Game selections.

“I don’t believe in goals,” Mays told the AP after winning his second MVP. “You start worrying about goals and you don’t do anything for the team. You play well and you get the records anyway.”


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

To the top
To the top

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series