All-time Bay Area athlete No. 4: Willie Mays, San Francisco Giants (MLB)
It’s tough enough to include only five all-time Bay Area athletes on this list, but it’s arguably tougher to rank them out, considering the different sports, eras and the vastly different contexts.
In many regards, Hall of Famer Willie Mays could deserve to be the No. 1 Bay Area athlete of all time. Others may argue he should be viewed as the greatest all-around athlete of all time, too, not just from professional baseball.
But it’s that distinction that makes things tough, as many a critic has cited Mays’ abilities to run, hit, throw, catch and hit for power as the epitome of a perfect five-tool player, including this Bleacher Report breakdown on Mays from 2009:
"It was common for radio announcers calling Giant games to say after Mays hit a ball that, “the only man who could have caught that ball just hit it.” That speaks to Mays’ ability as both a hitter and fielder and how far ahead he was of his peers. “The All-Star game was invented for Willie Mays,” was a common phrase that Hall of Famer Ted Williams used to say to describe Mays. Mays played in 20 All-Star games and won the game’s MVP award in 1963 and 1968."
When Bay Area fans hear the number 660, they automatically think of Mays’ home-run totals, sixth all time on the MLB leaderboard.
While that number obviously trails Barry Bonds, Mays did earn that cherished World Series trophy back in 1954 when the Giants were still in New York in which he made one of the most memorable catches in baseball history.