Letter: Albert Pujols vs. Willie Mays

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With apologies to the Angels’ executives who live in town, Albert Pujols may have passed Willie Mays on the all-time home run list, but he never will match Willie’s impact on the game. Known affectionately as the Say Hey Kid, Mays first played organized ball in the segregated Negro Leagues. Pujols hails from the Dominican Republic, but never played in similar conditions.

After winning rookie of the year honors in 1951, Willie’s career was interrupted in ’52 and ’53 when he was drafted into military service. That never happened to Albert.

When the New York Giants moved west in 1958, Mays had to endure San Francisco’s bitter winds and cold nights standing in center field for years. Pujols may have played a few games in bad weather, but not more than a decade of it like Willie did. Despite missing more than 250 games to military service and a thousand bone chilling nights at Candlestick Park, Mays managed to hit 660 home runs during his career.

So kudos to Angels slugger Albert Pujols for his recent accomplishment but know this: Willie Mays was a complete player. He could run, catch, throw and hit like no other player. As good as Pujols is today, he never will be half the ballplayer the Say Hey Kid was decades ago. I’m guessing Arnold Hano, Laguna’s legendary sports writer and author of “The Catch,” will agree.

Denny Freidenrich, Laguna Beach

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