Bob Costas sits down with Willie Mays on the MLB Network at 8 p.m. tonight to talk about Mays' life, career and new autobiography.
(No, it's not live, silly. It was recorded Jan. 5. Bob is in Vancouver already, helping with the snow-making machines.)
Here are some excerpts the network sent:
ON HIS INDIVIDUAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
I guess I was more of a team player than just an individual player. I liked for the team to win. I would go in the clubhouse, sit in my locker and just laugh and have a good time. The guy would bring me a sandwich over and I would see the guys smiling. That was more fun to me than hitting four home runs and going in the clubhouse and everybody’s mad because we lost the game. So a lot of things happened in baseball that I had a little bit of control over, but I would have rather been known as a complete player, a team player, not showing up anybody on the field or off the field, just, you know, a nice guy.
ON HIS FAMOUS OVER-THE-SHOULDER CATCH:
When Vic [Wertz] hit the ball to centerfield I never was worried about catching the ball, I was worried about getting the ball back into the infield. And I’m saying to myself, ‘I gotta get this ball back in the infield or Larry [Doby] is gonna score.’ … But as the ball was coming down, I knew I had the ball, but it was just a matter of getting it back into the infield. In The Polo Grounds I never had a cutoff man. They never came out. They’d say, “You’ve got a good enough arm, we don’t need to come out, it’s a waste of time,” so I never did throw it to a cutoff man. I always had the ball back into the infield. I was the cutoff man, so when a ball goes to left center, I would come to centerfield and be the cutoff man because I had the best arm, which made a lot of sense to Leo [Durocher]. Leo never said anything, so I just kept doing what I had to do, so it was fine.
ON JACKIE ROBINSON:
But that’s when I thought, boy I got a chance to get out of here and go to the Majors as quick as I can … Before that, I had three guys that I’d look up every Sunday. In Sunday’s paper there was Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. So now when Jackie Robinson came in, that gave me hope, because all these other guys I didn’t know and I didn’t think I was going to ever meet them, but I thought Jackie was my mentor.
ON WHETHER HE WAS NERVOUS BEFORE TEAMMATE BOBBY THOMSON’S “SHOT HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD”:
I thought they would walk Bobby to get to me anyway because Bobby just hit a home run off of [Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph] Branca in Brooklyn, probably the day before. It’s a three-game playoff and I’m saying to myself, ‘They’re gonna walk Bobby to get to me. What can I do?” I wasn’t nervous, I didn’t get nervous or anything like that, I was always kind of cool, you know, whatever happened happens. So I wanted to go to the plate right quick, but I tell you when you say nervous, when Bobby hit the home run, I was the last guy to get to home plate, and I’m saying to myself, “You’re on deck, fool, get up to the plate right away, so nobody can see you,” but somebody caught it, and I’m just number-24 coming up and when everybody else is there, shouting, and, and, and trying to wait for Bobby to get to home plate and I was the last guy, so I think I was a little nervous.
ON HIS GODSON, BARRY BONDS:
I think he’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame and I don’t think he did anything other than what other guys were doing. I don’t even really know that but I don’t like to get involved in things that I don’t know about, controversial stuff, and that’s why a lot of times I don’t even go on shows because they’re gonna ask me the same kind of questions … As far as what he was using, I don’t really know. I really didn’t ask him about his problems because it wasn’t my duty. He never asked me about anything so why should I get involved in what he was doing? So I really don’t know. I don’t get involved unless he calls. I don’t know what he does. If he did something, I’d be right there. I don’t care what it is, I’m never gonna leave someone that I like very much, and I think if he picks up the phone and calls me, I would be right there.
ON HIS NEW AUTOBIOGRAPHY Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend:
This book was a book for the people. I travel a lot and when I’m getting on planes or going through the airport, there always was someone saying, ‘You did this for me, you did that for me, and I’m saying, ‘I don’t remember all of these things,’ and so I said that maybe there’s a book in this, so these people can tell their stories … So if you look at that book … it’s probably four or five hundred different things that people tell you that I did for them and I didn’t know anything about it. So that’s the type of book I wanted, not just me talking about me, because I have like four or five books already out and how much can you talk about baseball when you’re doing things? … Most all the money is going to the foundation that I have for kids. I take care of battered wives, I take care of the police department around my house, the fire department, everybody around there because they’ve been so good to me that I have to do all these types of things a lot.”