The day Willie Mays hit his 500th home run
The Giants center fielder became the first African-American to accomplish the feat
San Francisco Giants center fielder Willie Mays had what on a normal day might be considered an average performance against the Houston Astros on Sept. 13, 1965. The center fielder finished with one hit, one RBI and a run scored in four at-bats.
Mays’ lone hit was actually a massive deal, as it was the 34-year-old’s 47th home run of the season and the 500th of his career.
Mays became the first African-American to hit 500 homers and the fifth major leaguer — along with Babe Ruth (714), Jimmie Foxx (534), Ted Williams (521) and Mel Ott (511) — to accomplish the feat.
“I wasn’t even looking to get 500 this year, to tell you the truth,” Mays told the Philadelphia Tribune. “I’ll have to average 40 a year to catch up with that guy [Ruth].
“I don’t think I can do it.”
But as far as catching Ott’s National League record 511 home runs?
“Sure, I know that,” Mays told the Tribune. “I don’t have to check on it. I just know it.”
Mays led off the fourth inning when he crushed a 3-1 pitch from Houston pitcher Don Nottebart into the center-field stands, 410 feet from home plate. That tied the game at 1-1, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Mays’ teammates weren’t done with the pitcher, though. Willie McCovey was walked and then reached third thanks to a double by Jim Hart. Len Gabrielson followed Hart’s hit with a walk.
McCovey sped to home plate after Tom Haller grounded out. The bases were then reloaded when Hal Lanier was walked. A Juan Marichal single brought in Hart and a sacrifice fly by Dick Schofield brought Gabrielson home.
The Giants beat the Astros, 5-1, for their 11th straight victory.
When the Tribune asked how many more big years Mays had in him, he tempered his expectations.
“I don’t know,” said Mays, who retired in 1973 with 660 home runs. “I need a rest occasionally. That hurts your chances to catch the record. Sure, Stan Musial played until he was 43, but he wasn’t hitting 50 home runs a year and he was playing about 100 games a year.”