Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. announced today that Major League Baseball has renamed the World Series Most Valuable Player Award in honor of Hall of Famer Willie Mays. Beginning with the 2017 World Series, the MVP of the Fall Classic will now be recognized as the “Willie Mays World Series Most Valuable Player,” which will continue to be presented by the award’s longtime sponsor, Chevrolet.
Commissioner Manfred said: “Major League Baseball is thrilled to honor Willie Mays on our game’s biggest stage and in a manner that befits his many contributions to the sport. Since making ‘The Catch’ on September 29, 1954, Willie has been a part of World Series history. This annual recognition will forever celebrate the life and career of a legend of the National Pastime.”
World Series MVP honors officially began in 1955, one year after Mays, the star center fielder of the New York Giants, made the most famous catch in the history of the Fall Classic. Following Mays’ sprinting, over-the-shoulder grab on a deep fly ball hit by Vic Wertz in Game One at the Polo Grounds, the Giants would go on to complete a four-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series. Overall, Mays played in the Fall Classic four times – in his rookie season of 1951 and again in ’54 with the New York Giants; in 1962 after the Club moved to San Francisco; and in his final Major League season, 1973, as a member of the New York Mets.
Mays, who is 86, played in a record-tying 24 All-Star Games in his 22 years with the Giants (1951-1972) and the Mets (1972-1973). Mays signed with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League at 16 and then joined the Giants organization in 1950. The following year, the eventual National League Rookie of the Year was in the on-deck circle for teammate Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” After serving in the U.S. Army for most of the 1952 season and all of 1953, “The Say Hey Kid” returned to post an MVP season in 1954, leading the Giants to the World Series Championship. He earned NL MVP honors again in 1965 and won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1957-1968. Mays finished his career with a .302 batting average, 660 home runs, 338 stolen bases, a .384 on-base percentage and a .557 slugging percentage. The Alabama native was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 with 94.7% of all votes, the fourth-highest total ever at the time of his election.
Mays was honored as one of Baseball’s four “Greatest Living Players,” as voted on by fans, at the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati. In November 2015, Mays received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.