Classic Games: May 25, 1951, Willie Mays Makes His Debut for the Giants in Philadelphia

by
Greek Giant

So as I do my research for this classic games series I always find fascinating things on the Internet. On May 24, 1951 the New York Giants held a press conference to announce to the baseball world that the contract of a certain player named Willie Mays had been purchased from their Minneapolis affiliate. In Minneapolis Willie Mays was batting .375 with eight homers and thirty runs batted in after only 35 games. It was time for him to come to the Major Leagues.

The next day he would make his debut in the Show playing center field as the Giants were playing against the Phillies in Philadelphia. The move by Leo Durocher forced Bobby Thompson to left field, a big deal at the time since Thompson was considered one of the premiere center fielders of the day.

The newspapers reported a huge interest by African American fans, who usually only attended Phillies games in big numbers when Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers were in town. They heard about Willie Mays and they were excited to watch him play. So were the Phillies. Here is a great account of the moment from The New York Times:

In the New York Times’ account of the game, John Drebinger wrote, “During batting practice, Willie brought rounds of ‘ah’s’ from the early arrivals by driving three tremendous drives into the left field stand.”4 Giants manager Leo Durocher confirmed this in his book Nice Guys Finish Last:

I saw something then that I had never seen before in my life. The Philadelphia ball club was warming up on the sidelines getting ready to take infield practice when Willie stepped into the batting cage for the first time, and every player there stopped dead in his tracks and watched him. He hit balls on top of the roof, into the upper deck, the lower deck, all over the park, and everything he hit was a screamer.

Jim Hearn started for the Giants against Bubba Church. The Giants would win a back and forth game, 8-5, after scoring five runs in the 8th inning. The Giants would end up sweeping the series as Willie Mays went hitless (0-5) in his debut but reached base on an error before making loud outs in the fifth and seventh innings. The Giants would end up going 79-39 (.669) the rest of the season after entering the game with a pedestrian 17-19 record. Willie Mays would win NL Rookie of the year honors that season batting .281, and the rest is history.

The Box

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York Giants 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 5 0 8 12 4
Philadelphia Phillies 1 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 5 8 2
WP: George Spencer (2-1) • LP: Bob Miller (1-1) • SV: Sheldon Jones (3)

New York Giants

 

Batting AB R H RBI BB SO PA BA OBP SLG OPS WPA aLI WPA+ WPA- RE24 PO A Details
Eddie Stanky 2B 4 1 3 0 1 1 5 .312 .444 .471 .915 0.151 1.39 0.173 -0.022 1.1 0 2 2B
Whitey Lockman 1B 5 0 2 3 0 0 5 .271 .327 .355 .682 0.327 2.27 0.469 -0.141 2.3 9 0 2B,GDP
Willie Mays CF 5 0 0 0 0 1 5 .000 .000 .000 .000 -0.132 1.12 0.004 -0.136 -0.8 5 0
Hank Thompson 3B 3 2 0 0 2 0 5 .248 .366 .434 .799 0.029 1.08 0.106 -0.078 -0.2 4 3
Wes Westrum C 2 1 2 1 3 0 5 .293 .500 .534 1.034 0.322 1.23 0.322 0.000 2.9 4 1 HR
Monte Irvin RF 5 1 0 0 0 2 5 .268 .433 .402 .835 -0.239 1.79 0.000 -0.239 -1.9 3 0
Al Dark SS 5 1 4 2 0 0 5 .348 .395 .525 .920 0.261 1.46 0.269 -0.008 1.7 1 3
Bobby Thomson LF 4 2 1 1 0 0 4 .229 .335 .417 .752 0.116 2.37 0.229 -0.114 -0.0 1 0
Jim Hearn P 2 0 0 0 0 1 2 .235 .278 .235 .513 -0.077 1.50 0.000 -0.077 -0.7 0 2
   Don Mueller PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .185 .264 .246 .510 -0.029 1.20 0.000 -0.029 -0.3
   George Spencer P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0.00 0.0 0 0
   Spider Jorgensen PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .231 .302 .385 .687 -0.085 3.80 0.000 -0.085 -0.5
   Sheldon Jones P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0.00 0.0 0 0
Team Totals 37 8 12 7 6 5 43 .324 .419 .459 .878 0.644 1.61 1.572 -0.929 3.6 27 11

 

Philadelphia Phillies

Batting AB R H RBI BB SO PA BA OBP SLG OPS WPA aLI WPA+ WPA- RE24 PO A Details
Eddie Waitkus 1B 5 1 4 1 0 0 5 .258 .321 .318 .639 0.164 0.80 0.180 -0.015 2.1 6 1 2B
Richie Ashburn CF 4 0 0 0 0 0 5 .345 .398 .405 .803 -0.115 0.99 0.000 -0.115 -1.5 0 0 SH
Dick Sisler LF 5 0 1 1 0 0 5 .346 .395 .515 .909 -0.023 0.91 0.124 -0.148 -0.7 3 0 3B
Del Ennis RF 3 0 0 0 1 0 4 .273 .385 .462 .847 0.042 0.77 0.058 -0.016 0.5 2 1
Willie Jones 3B 3 0 0 0 1 0 4 .224 .302 .474 .776 -0.046 1.27 0.048 -0.095 -0.5 1 2
Granny Hamner SS 4 2 1 1 0 1 4 .274 .289 .425 .713 0.098 1.03 0.170 -0.073 0.8 4 2 HR
Andy Seminick C 4 0 0 0 0 0 4 .270 .418 .508 .926 -0.076 1.00 0.000 -0.076 -1.0 5 0
Mike Goliat 2B 4 2 1 1 0 1 4 .190 .244 .310 .554 0.119 0.92 0.167 -0.048 1.2 4 2 HR
Bubba Church P 3 0 1 0 0 0 3 .200 .200 .200 .400 0.005 0.61 0.033 -0.027 -0.1 1 0
   Bob Miller P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 0.00 0.0 0 0
   Jim Konstanty P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0.00 0.0 1 2
   Dick Whitman PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .133 .133 .133 .267 -0.023 0.89 0.000 -0.023 -0.2
Team Totals 36 5 8 4 2 2 39 .222 .263 .472 .735 0.145 0.93 0.780 -0.636 0.6 27 10

 

New York Giants

 

Pitching IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA BF GSc IR IS WPA aLI RE24
Jim Hearn 6 7 5 3 2 1 2 4.10 29 41 -0.256 1.04 -2.1
George Spencer, W (2-1) 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4.02 3 0 0 0.023 0.30 0.5
Sheldon Jones, S (3) 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 6.75 7 0 0 0.089 0.73 1.0
Team Totals 9 8 5 3 2 2 2 3.00 39 41 0 0 -0.144 0.93 -0.6

 

Philadelphia Phillies

Pitching IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA BF GSc IR IS WPA aLI RE24
Bubba Church 7 9 5 5 4 5 1 4.55 32 40 -0.038 1.34 -0.6
Bob Miller, BS (1), L (1-1) 0.1 2 2 2 0 0 0 9.16 3 2 2 -0.265 3.98 -1.4
Jim Konstanty 1.2 1 1 0 2 0 0 3.95 8 2 2 -0.341 1.81 -1.6
Team Totals 9 12 8 7 6 5 1 7.00 43 40 4 4 -0.644 1.61 -3.6

Bubba Church faced 2 batters in the 8th inning.