Born October 1, 1946 in the USA
Drafted in 8th round, 172nd overall pick, by Washington in 1973 in 1973 MBBA Dispersal Draft
Debut April 1, 1973
Won Slick Fielder Award in 1977
Was selected to the 1974, 1976, and 1977 All-Star Games
Won Landis Memorial Series in 1975 and 1978 with Washington
The essence of the leadoff man. Going from first to third on a wild pitch. Distracting pitchers with a dance off first base. Stealing third and getting to the base before the catcher has even caught the ball. Seeing at least five pitches in an at bat. Dropping a hit behind the first baseman, having it spin foul, and getting a triple out of it. All these things, and much more, were part of Willie Mays Hayes game, and because of that, he is enshrined here in the MBBA Hall of Fame. It is well known that great controversy surrounds the election of Hayes to the Hall of Fame, but once the dye is cast, there is no going back, and this is where we will celebrate the accomplishments of Billy Wagn..um, I am sorry, Willie Mays Hayes.
Willie, like so many players of his era, was born immediately following world war two to a poor couple in Jacksonville, Florida. The youngest of seventeen children, Willie grew up a confident, if not cocky kid. His father Henry was a skilled aircraft mechanic, and as such, was able to actually earn enough money to feed all his children, however, the hours working to pay for his family meant that he was not around to raise Willie and the others, and they were left to find their own entertainment many days. While he has six doctors, three lawyers, a dentist, two United States Senators, a colonial and a general in the US Air Force, and a pair of Pulitzer Prize winning journalists for siblings, Willie was really the only one ever to have any athletic ability. Therefore, by the time he was six, when his brothers and sisters would get together to play sports, he would whoop all of them, even his brother who was at that time 30 and in the Air Force. He was so fast for his size, quick and agile, he was always the running back when they played football, the outfielder (he cover all 3 positions at one time) when they played baseball, and, given his speed, he was always the guard in their 6 team round-robin 3 on 3 basketball tournaments (his mother was a great basketball player in her own right, and was the 18th player in those games).
He was home schooled by his mother and two of his sisters who were attending college at the time (one a doctor, the other a lawyer) until he was 14, and as such, he did not play much in the way of youth sports. All of the sports he played were with his rather uncoordinated siblings, and because of that, he never learned what it was like to lose, or to be told no. As a young child, this did not really bother anyone, but later, when he went to high school, this would provide for a huge challenge. In his youth though, he loved to run to the store, to run with their dog, or to just chase birds that would perch in their trees.
By the time he was 15, he had never been on an organized sports team, and going to school finally forced him to find new opponents for his games. Confident, he failed to learn the practical realities of baseball, how to hit a curve ball, how to judge where to try and hit the ball based on where the fielders were, so when he finally had his chance to try out for the team, he, although fast, was unable to make the varsity squad. Now, this was typical for a freshman to not make the varsity team, but Willie's inability to take rejection cut into his desire to play, and he did not show up to the JV practices as instructed. He wound up quitting the school baseball team that day, and dedicated himself to learning how to play the game on his own. Feeling bitter towards the coaches for their inability to see his talent, and mad at his family for not preparing him for more difficult competition, he felt he could trust no one. So, for the next four years, as he went to classes and graduated on time, he never again tried out for the high school team.
When he graduated from high school, he enrolled in a local community college where he continued his education, as well as tuning his game. He was playing a pickup game of ball when a minor league scout for the Baltimore Orioles saw him, and he inquired to the athletic department of the school to find out who the speedy, talented player was. When describing Hayes to the baseball coach, the coach was unable to identify who he was. Returning to the park, Allen Rainey, the scout for the Orioles, could not find him. However, he would not forget the speedy talent, and moving on, reminded himself to check back in a year to see if he was around.
Sure enough, in late 1966, Rainey found Hayes playing ball again. He did not let this opportunity get away this time, and he approached Hayes, telling the young man to show up at the Orioles camp that spring in Fort Lauderdale. Walking on to the field that February, Hayes proved he was able to teach himself the game, and was a talent to behold. Regrettably, his attitude was hard to deal with, as he sensed his ability beyond the others he was practicing with. This attitude may have kept Hayes out of the big leagues, had it not been for Rainey's new project, six year later.
As an owner in the fledgling MBBA, Rainey had a list of players he wanted to draft in 1973, and in the eighth round of the dispersal draft, Rainey took Hayes, and paid him handsomely. Making more then his 16 successful siblings put together, Hayes was finally validated and he set out that first season to prove he was worth all that money.
In 1973, finally given a chance to perform on a national stage, Hayes did not disappoint. Scoring 100 runs, and roping 199 hits, not only did Hayes bat over .300, but he also stole a league leading 90 bases. He was a singles hitting machine, and he came to be an early example of what it meant to be a lead off man in the MBBA. He also showed how he could play on both sides of the ball, going all season without an error in CF for the Washington Bobwhites. He was never blessed with a strong arm, but with his speed, he was able to get to many balls in center, and was a key part of the success for the Washington pitchers of that era.
Playing for Washington in the 1970's means that Willie had PLENTY of chances in the post-season, and Hayes did not disappoint. Helping the Bobwhites win two Landis Memorial Trophies, he put together a carrier batting average of .279, with 70 hits in 251 career at bats in the post season. His aggression on the bases got the best of him in the most important games of his career, and he only was able to steal seven bases in 21 attempts. Those two world championships were not his only accolades, as he was named an all star three times, and he won a slick fielder award for his great skill in centerfield in 1977.
The debates will always exist around Willie Mays Hayes, but his carrier numbers of .286 batting average with 477 stolen bases, in the glorious times for one of the most dominant teams in the MBBA's history were enough to get him a slot in the Hall of Fame.
*plaque written by Matt Bornac
Herein You Find the Inducted