Born and raised in the Birmingham area, Willie Mays and Bo Jackson both attained legendary status in their respective sports outside of Alabama, across the U.S. and around the World. This article is the second in a series detailing notable Birmingham natives.
Born just outside Birmingham in Westfield, AL, in 1931, Willie Mays was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979. In his teen years, Mays played baseball alongside his father on a team for the local iron plant. While attending Fairfield High School, Mays averaged 17 points a game on the baseball team and more than 40 yards a punt in football.
In 1947 Mays began his professional baseball career when he played briefly with the Chattanooga Choo-Choos in Tennessee. On his return home, Mays played for the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro American League.
In his first year with the New York Giants, 1951, Mays won the Rookie of the Year award and, with his fielding and great arm, was instrumental in several victories for the team. Mays went on to play for the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets before retiring in 1973 as the oldest regular position player in baseball.
Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson was born in Bessemer in 1962 and attended McAdory High School where he played on the football and baseball teams and was a two-time state champion in the decathlon.
Although chosen by the New York Yankees in the second round of the MLB draft, Jackson chose to attend Auburn University on a football scholarship. During his time as a running back at Auburn, Jackson won the Heisman Trophy.
Following college, Jackson played in the National Football League and in the American League in Major League Baseball, becoming the first athlete to be named an All-Star in two major sports. Jackson gained notoriety beyond sports fans when Nike named an athletic shoe after the althlete and promoted the shoe through the “Bo Knows” advertising campaign.