Remembering Mets History: (1972) Willie Mays Returns To New York With A Game Winning HR

Sunday Mother's Day- May 14th 1972: It was a special day at Shea Stadium, on this Mothers Day, as the great Willie Mays made his triumphant return to New York.
 
There was a time when the Giants' said they would never trade Willie Mays. But times were hard in San Francisco by the early 1970's, the Giants were losing money & club owner Horace Stonemann felt he couldn't afford to pay Mays' any longer.


The Hall of Famer Mays, had always been a favorite of Mets owner, Joan Payson, going back to his early days with the New York Giants. Mrs. Payson had pursued Mays for years but was never able to make a deal.

On May 11th 1972, a deal was finalized sending Willie Mays to the Mets in exchange for pitcher, Charlie Williams & $50,000 in cash.

The Mets also offered Mays a coaching job & a salary for the rest of his 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 in the twilight of his career, his presence & knowledge meant so much to the young players. The New York fans were thrilled to have the "Say Hey Kid" back in town.

In his first game back with the Mets, Mays was batting lead off and playing at first base. It was a day filled with standing ovations for Willie, from the Shea crowd of  35,505. 

On this day Yogis Berra's first place Met (17-7) took on Willie's old team, Charlie Fox's last place San Francisco Giants (9-19). The Mets had veteran Ray Sadecki on the mound against "Sudden" Sam McDowell.


Willie Mays led off the bottom of the 1st, to a huge standing ovation & drew a walk, the first of two base on balls he would have on the day. 

Sam McDowell was having control issues, he next walked, Bud Harrelson & Tommie Agee to load the bases. The clean up hitter, was another new addition to the 1972 Mets, Rusty Staub. Staub a certified All Star, had come over from the Montreal Expos in the off season. 

Rusty Staub gave the Mother's Day crowd, a big thrill, as he blasted a grand slam HR, putting the Mets up 4-0. A great start to the day. McDowell then bore down & struck out the next three Mets.

For New York, Ray Sadecki cruised along until the 5th inning. He walked the Giants catcher, Fran Healy. 

Next, Bernie Williams tripled to score Healy. Giants' short stop Chris Speier doubled to bring Williams in. Next, second baseman Tito Fuentes hit a two run HR tying up the game.

In the 5th, Reliever Don Carithers came in to pitch for the Giants & Willie Mays was to lead off the inning. 

n story book fashion, Willie gave the crowd another thrill, hitting a HR over the Shea Stadium wall, to put the Mets up 5-4. It was Willie's 547th career HR, third on the all time list at that point in time. It was his first of the year.



The Mets dugout jumped up in excitement & the wet Shea crowd went crazy. Welcome home Willie, it was quite a home coming!!

The HR ended up being the game winning run, as the Mets won it 5-4. Reliever Jim McAndrew came on to pitch for the Mets, throwing four scoreless innings to earn the save. The Mets only had four hits in the game but the long balls did them just fine. 

The Mets rolled along at this early point of the season, going on an eleven game win streak, that gave them a six game lead of first place on May 21st. 

But injuries to Rusty Staub, Bud Harrelson, Cleon Jones & Jerry Grote took it's toll. That year the Mets had lost manager Gil Hodges to a heart attack, just before the season began. They also traded away Nolan Ryan for third baseman Jim Fregosi in a deal that turned out to be a disaster. 1969 hero, Tommie Agee's chronic knee problems were ruining his career as well, he would retire at age 32 by 1974. The Mets finished third at 83-73.

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