HomeJuan Vené on the BallFrom Willie Mays to the world of baseball

From Willie Mays to the world of baseball

Enjoy a new installment of "En la Pelota" by Juan Vené

I find myself sincerely overwhelmed by so many kindnesses expressed and published on the occasion of having traveled to this Hereafter that you call Beyond.

And, like one of those pleasant facts that arise unexpectedly, I find that the Mets remember me along with Jerry Grote, one of the most notable catchers in history, the one who has received the most Mets games, 348; and also one of the characters most beloved by New York fans, thanks to his aggressiveness, his permanent smile and his wisdom in baseball, enough to welcome him to the wonders that that team has had as pitchers.

The Mets now play with two patches on their sleeve, one with the numbers 3 and 15, worn by Jerry on his uniform, and the 24 that I wore.

The owners, Steve and Alex Cohen, plus the manager, Carlos Mendoza, have been very gracious in the delicate way they presented that idea.

As you may remember, I came to the Mets at the end of my career. I had played with the Giants, New York and San Francisco for 21 seasons, when in 1971 the Mets hired me, I think as a tribute to my past, instead of thinking that I could help them win.

In one of the games at Shea Stadium, I hit a line drive into the outfield, good for two bases, but after three or four steps off the plate, I fell to my knees on the field and couldn't get up. I couldn't until after they threw the ball and tagged me out.

I felt embarrassed. But the crowd, what a nice Mets crowd! she applauded. Shame completely overwhelmed me and I felt pain all over my body. It was one of the unforgettable events of my long time in the Major Leagues.

I also remember with deep love the 1954 World Series, of our Giants, still from New York, against the Indians. Firstly, because it was my catch deep in centerfield, with a happy throw for a double play.

And because I met the Mexican named Beto Ávila. He had been batting champion in the American League, with 341, and I was champion in the National League, with 345.

In addition to having a good bat, that boy was very funny and very gentle. He wanted to make a joke, asking him how he managed to hit so many hits. And he made the joke to me, when he responded:

“Well, I dedicate myself to watching you bat, maestro.”

Beto invited me to visit his land, Veracruz. He wanted to take me to breakfast at a certain place in his city, where he said, every visitor has to go. He always wanted to become Mexican in the heart of Veracruz. But I was never able to make the trip.

Hugs for all. I love you so much… Willie.

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