December 4, 2022
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New documentary examines life and career of Willie Mays

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The 2023 Major League Baseball season will be the 50th since Willie Mays hit his last home run or made his final basket catch, but the Alabama native continues to hold a fascination for sports fans not only as perhaps baseball’s greatest player but also it’s most exciting.

On Thursday at the UrbanWorld Film Festival, the HBO Sports Documentaries’ production “Say Hey, Willie Mays!” will have its world premiere.

HBO released a trailer for the film on Wednesday.

“Say Hey, Willie Mays!” will get its first showing on HBO at 8 p.m. CST Nov. 8.

“Over the years, the fans have given me so much joy, and I am excited to express my thanks again through this wonderful documentary and its telling of the story of my career and life,” Mays said in an HBO press release. “I have worked hard and been fortunate to do many amazing things over the course of my life, and I am excited and proud that the people who see this film, including younger fans who never saw me play, will have the chance to relive this great journey with me and have a few laughs along the way.  Watching this documentary brought a proud and grateful smile to my face, and I hope everyone else enjoys it, too.”

Born in the U.S. Steel company town of Westfield in 1931, Mays got his first professional experience with the Birmingham Black Barons after starring in football and basketball at Fairfield Industrial High School and in baseball in the Fairfield Industrial League.

After reaching the National League with the New York Giants in 1951, Mays presented a package of power and speed that turned him into a highlight reel at the plate, on the bases and in the field. Mays went to 24 All-Star games, won the NL Most Valuable Player Award twice, earned 12 Gold Gloves for excellence in center field, hit 660 home runs, stole 338 bases and made countless catches in the outfield with his cap flying off.

When Mays became eligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, he received votes from 94.7 percent of the participating members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, the fourth-highest at that point for any inductee.

The documentary includes interviews with Mays, his son Michael Mays, baseball stars Barry Bonds, Orlando Cepeda, Reggie Jackson and Juan Marichal, broadcasters Bob Costas, Jon Miller and Vin Scully and Mays’ biographer John Shea.

“It’s been one of the highlights of my life to get to talk with and document the life of Willie Mays, perhaps baseball’s greatest player and certainly its most charismatic personality,” said Nelson George, the film’s director. “Not only was he a staple on the ‘Baseball Game of the Week,’ but crossed over into talk shows and night-time entertainment when Black faces were rare. The film is very much a tale of mentorship. Willie was schooled in life and baseball by his father, Cat, and Negro League players. Later Willie looked out for scores of young Black players including his godson Barry Bonds. An epic American life.”

At 91, Mays still keeps tabs on the Giants. On Sept. 28, he was in the clubhouse for a visit before San Francisco took on the Colorado Rockies.

“I came to see the guys, not to cause any excitement,” Mays told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I want to make sure I keep up with the guys. I just hope I can keep my body strong enough to be back for spring training. There are just a few games to go this year, but these guys will be back strong.”

Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.





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