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SF Giants: 3 unbelievable feats from Willie Mays’ all-time great career

PHOENIX - MARCH, 1962: Outfielder Willie Mays #24, of the SF Giants, poses for a portrait prior to a Spring Training game in March, 1962 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by: Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images)
PHOENIX - MARCH, 1962: Outfielder Willie Mays #24, of the SF Giants, poses for a portrait prior to a Spring Training game in March, 1962 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by: Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images)
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Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, SF Giants
SF Giants slugger Barry Bonds laughs with godfather Giants legend Willie Mays at Giants Opening Day against the San Diego Padres in 2002. (JOHN G. MABANGLO/AFP via Getty Images)

SF Giants legend Willie Mays turns 90:

Incredible feat number 2: Mays led the league in home runs in 1955, 1962, 1964, and 1965

For the most recent generations of SF Giants fans, it may be hard to imagine anyone being a more impressive power hitter than Bonds. Of course, the all-time career home run leader is right alongside Mays as one of the greatest MLB players of all time. However, Mays did something that even Bonds never did, he led the National League in home runs on four different occasions.

Arguably most impressive, the gap between the first season Mays led the NL in homers (1955) and the last (1965) spanned a decade. Only Henry Aaron and Mike Schmidt ever matched that feat (Babe Ruth is the lone player to do so in the American League). Of that esteemed group, Mays is the only one to bookend his home run titles with 50-homer seasons (blasting 51 in 1955 and 52 in 1965).

In all of MLB history, a player has only hit at least 50 home runs 46 times. Mays did it at 24 and 34 years old. Perhaps nothing seems more foreign to modern baseball fans than the longevity of stars like Mays in previous generations. Without close to the same medical and training knowledge as professional athletes have at their disposal today, Mays still maintained his status as one of the best athletes in the world for an incredible amount of time.

Over a 13-year period (from 1954-1966), Mays averaged 40 home runs, 21 stolen bases, 73 walks, 69 strikeouts, and a .315/.390/.601 triple-slash. Any single season with those numbers would rightfully be historic. Mays matched that production time and time again for more than a decade in his prime. When you remember that Mays lost the bulk of the 1952 and the entire 1953 season when he was drafted to serve in the U.S. Military during the Korean War, it becomes even more interesting to imagine how much better his career numbers could have been.

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