When we think of Willie Mays, we naturally think of his days with the New York/San Francisco Giants. After all, Mays did spend 21 seasons with that organization before a season and a half with the New York Mets before retiring following the 1973 season.

Did you know Willie Mays cut his teeth with the Minneapolis Millers in 1951 before getting his call to the major leagues later that year?

Mays began his career with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues before signing with the New York Giants organization in 1950 upon his high school graduation. The Giants had to decide whether to send him to their farm team in Ottawa, or the Millers in Minneapolis, before ultimately choosing Minnesota due to its organizational stability.

The Millers went 13-6 during Spring Training games in Florida, with Mays batting a sparkling .408 while driving in 29 runs in 19 games. The team then opened the regular season with a 13 game road trip with Mays hitting well out of the gate and posting a .352 batting average.

Poor weather kept most fans from attending Millers games when they returned home and Mays gave them a major case of FOMO, batting .477 with eight home runs, 38 runs scored and 30 runs batted in over the course of 35 games. He also played amazing defense, pairing acrobatic catching skills with a cannon arm.

Naturally, the Giants decided they had seen enough and called him to the big club... and the rest is history.

Information from the Society For American Baseball Research was used in this post. 

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