A deal had been finalized on Thursday, May 11th 1972, that would send Wiillie Mays to the Mets from the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Charlie Williams & cash.
The future Hall of Famer had always been a favorite of Mets owner Joan Payson since his early days as a New York Giant. Mrs. Payson had pursued Mays for years, but was never able to make a deal. The San Francisco Giants were losing money, long time owner & friend to May, Horace Stoneman could not afford to pay Mays any longer & certainly not after his retirement.
The Mets could, also offering a coaching job & a salary for life. Mrs. Payson finally got her man, Mays would finish out his career in the City where his great Hall of Fame career began.
Although he was at the twilight of that career, his presence meant everything to the young players & fans. Mays had debuted in New York with the New York Giants 21 years earlier in 1951. The National League, New York fans were thrilled to have the Say Hey Kid back home.
In his first game with the Mets, Mays was batting lead off and playing fat irst base. It was a day filled with standing ovations from the Shea crowd of 35,505 as the Mets took on Willie's old team; the San Francisco Giants.
Left hander; Ray Sadecki started for Yogis Berra's first place Mets (17-7) against "Sudden" Sam McDowell & Charlie Fox's sixth place Giants (9-19).
Willie Mays led the game off with a walk, the first of two he'd have on the day. McDowell couldn't find the plate, as he followed with walks to Bud Harrelson & Tommie Agee. Next up came was another new addition to the '72 Mets; Rusty Staub.
Staub had come over from the Montreal Expos in the off season. Staub gave Willie & the mom's in attendance a huge Mothers Day gift, blasting a grand slam HR, putting the Mets up 4-0.
Sadecki cruised along until the 5th inning, as the Giants Fran Healy singled & Bernie Williams tripled to score him. Then the Giant short stop Chris Speier doubled to bring him Williams in. Next up; second baseman Tito Fuentes hit a two run HR & it was a tie ball game.
Reliever Don Carithers came in to pitch for the Giants, as Willie Mays led off the bottom of the 5th inning.
In story book, dramatic fashion, Willie gave the crowd a thrill as he hit a HR over the Shea Stadium wall, putting the Mets up 5-4.
The Mets dugout jumped up in excitement & the wet Shea crowd went crazy. Welcome home Willie, it was quite a home coming!!
That HR would end up being the game winner, as Jim McAndrew came on to pitch four scoreless innings to earn the save. The Mets only had four hits in the game but held on to win it 5-4 and had a nice three game lead ahead in first place.