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A-Rod HR chase nears the great Willie Mays

The Great Willie Mays
The Great Willie Mays
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On July 31st, 1961 your humble scribe was privileged to have a ticket to that year's All-Star Game at Fenway Park. It's remembered as the first Mid-Summer Classic to end in a tie (1-1). As a kid, the outcome of the game didn't matter much, just the fact that I was there with my Dad watching the greats of the game was plenty for me. Who were the greats? Let's start with the AL: Well, Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline, Norm Cash, and Rocky Colavito were some of the starters. Guys that couldn't break the opening line-up? How about Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Harmon Killebrew, and Nellie Fox? Oh, and Whitey Ford apparently was not good enough that year to start for the AL.

But it was the NL squad that was really eye-popping, especially in the days before fans in AL cities could see these players. How this for some of the starting group: Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Eddie Matthews, and Maury Wills? Guys that were riding the pine? How about someone named Hank Aaron, or Stan Musial or Frank Robinson, or—I don' know—Ernie Banks?

Why do I bring all of this up? Yesterday, an Alex Rodriguez's HR brought him to within 12 of Willie Mays' 660 career total. There's a chance that he could catch or pass The Say Hey Kid on or around the 40th anniversary of his final game—September 9, 1973. That would be a travesty, because Rodriguez should never be mentioned in the same breath as the now 82-year old Willie. I'm one of the few who can say: "I saw Willie Mays, I watched Willie Mays play. A-Rod, you're no Willie Mays."