Mays, Series trophy visit Polo Grounds neighborhood


Mays, Series trophy visit Polo Grounds neighborhood


NEW YORK (AP) -- Willie Mays sat on the stage of a grade school auditorium on the site of the old Polo Grounds, addressing a room full of attentive kids. A larger-than-life black-and-white photo of himself playing stickball served as the backdrop.

He was to give the "A" students a dozen baseballs along with three cream-colored, vintage 1951 jerseys, with "Giants" written across the front in script and his old number on the back. Discovering he was one baseball short, Mays pulled out a 100 bill and handed it to Kendryck Taveras, a very surprised fifth-grader.

"I'd rather have the 100," the grinning 11-year-old said. "I'm going to save it."

The Say Hey Kid gave these kids a day they'll never forget.

"This is my neighborhood!" the 79-year-old Hall of Famer said to loud applause and one of a number of standing ovations. "They don't know me. They wasn't here when I was playing ball."

And then he painted a picture of what it was like, back when the ground where P.S. 46 stood was home to the famous No. 24.

"Right up the street here, St. Nicholas Place," he said, gesturing, remembering back six decades ago.

Another time, same place for Willie, likely the greatest living baseball player.

"I used to have maybe 10 kids come to my window. Every morning, they'd come at 9 o'clock," he said. "They'd knock on my window, get me up. And I had to be out at 9:30. So they'd give me a chance to go shower. They'd give me a chance to eat breakfast. But I had to be out there at 9:30, because that's when they wanted to play. So I played with them for about maybe an hour."

Mays was back Friday where his big league career, bringing along the San Francisco Giants' World Series trophy celebrating the team's first title since 1954. In a charming talk, with Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom and President Larry Baer sitting in the front row, he made the "Willie, Mickey and the Duke" era of flannel uniforms seem real and vibrant in this iTouch age.

The kids had studied Mays' life ahead of the assembly, and Taveras even wrote a biography about him, learning that he played in the Negro Leagues.

"It was cool!" he said after meeting the famous player.

Baer called the stickball photo of Mays his favorite image in sports.

"Weaving a legend to come back to where he made his mark and taking that trip through time made me cry," Baer said. "It's such a return to an innocent time -- after a game or before game, you're by the ballpark playing ball with the kids?"

Mays talked about the famous trio of center fielders: himself for the Giants, Mickey Mantle across the Harlem River with the Yankees and Duke Snider over in Brooklyn with the Dodgers.

"We would go to the All-Star game and Mick and I would laugh at Duke," Mays recalled. "And we would laugh at him all the time and say, Hey man, you can't play this game. We're better than you.'"

Most of all, it was the neighborhood memories that made the connection.

"There was a drugstore on the corner, and I used to go buy ice cream every day. That was day games," he said, wearing his black-and-orange "SF" cap. "Night games I started at maybe say 4:30 or 5 o'clock. And they were always there to make sure that I would be there for them. I had a good time playing stickball."

Called up to the Giants in 1951, Mays was on deck when Bobby Thomson hit probably the most famous home run in baseball history, the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" that won the pennant over Brooklyn.

The Giants moved west in 1957, and the Polo Grounds was demolished seven years later to make room for the Polo Grounds Towers. The kids knew that on the very same site they now learned math, Mays and others had created many famous baseball statistics. But a personal appearance made it real.

With Harold Reynolds serving as master of ceremonies and Arthur Tappan School Principal George Young serving as host, the students sang spirited renditions of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Mays reminded the kids that their parents were their heroes, not athletes, and they should extend their education for as long as they can. Six children came onstage to ask him questions.

The Giants asked permission from the Yankees and Mets to hold the event in their territory. A team that makes sure to celebrate its own history during November's World Series parade, Mays rode in the same 1958 Chevy convertible he used in the celebration when the Giants moved to California.

It was a morning for tying together eras.

"What we're tying to do with this is get some of our old-time fans to pass that loyalty on to younger fans here in New York," Neukom said. "You could love the Mets and Yankees and still care about the Giants, who started here."

Most interesting was Mays' answer about his relationship Leo Durocher, Mays' first manager on the Giants. A famously flamboyant bon vivant, Durocher was suspended by Commissioner Happy Chandler in 1947 for "association with known gamblers" and married actress Laraine Day.

Mays called Leo his mentor, and guide to Hollywood's elite -- from Frank Sinatra to Sammy Davis Jr. to Cary Grant.

"Every movie star I wanted to meet, Leo knew," Mays said. "I wanted to meet Dean Martin. We went to the studio, I got him. OK. Then Cary. Then Sammy. Then I said I wanted to meet Frank. He said, No. No. No. You can't meet Frank.' He said, You've got to go to Frank's house and say, "Frank. I'm here. I'm want to do your yard." And then Frank will say either, "Get out of here, boy!" or "Bring him in!'" So that was how I met Frank."

Mo Speights calls Clippers out for complaining to refs too much

Mo Speights calls Clippers out for complaining to refs too much

The Warriors led the Clippers by 18 points after the first quarter on Wednesday night and cruised to a 115-98 victory.

Marreese Speights registered 15 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench for Los Angeles.

After the game, the former Warrior was asked what the difference is between the two teams.

“First we need to start really just leaving the refs alone,” Speights told the Orange County Register. “Guys just got to sacrifice, do some other things than scoring, do some other things than your personal goals. Just try something new.

“They’ve been doing it here for four or five years and it hasn’t been working, so it’s time to try something new.”

Speights played for Golden State the prior three seasons and averaged 10.4 points per game during the Warriors' 2014-15 championship run.

He has been trying to tell his new teammates what they need to do to get to the Warriors' level.

“Tonight, they see it, they see everything I say. Everything I say in practice since I’ve been here, they see it. That’s how they (the Warriors) play...

"Move the ball really well, they get everybody involved, they play good team defense. And they capitalize off our mistakes. We turned the ball over a lot in the first quarter and they capitalized."

The Clippers were called for three technical fouls -- one apiece for Chris Paul, Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin -- and trailed by as many as 27 points.

The Warriors have now won seven straight games against their Pacific Division rivals and hold a 3.5 game lead over the Clippers for the top spot in the Western Conference.

The teams don't square off again until Jan. 28.

Speights also provided insight into what the scouting report is when you face the Clippers.

“It’s always been, especially with the Warriors, you play against the Clippers, you hit them a couple of times and their spirit is going to be down. That’s what happened, so we’ve just got to find a way to get over that hump.”

Why the Giants are likely done making big offseason additions

Why the Giants are likely done making big offseason additions

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Giants spent Monday huddled in a suite at the Gaylord National Resort, putting the finishing touches on the offseason’s big move. By Wednesday afternoon, team officials were scattering.

Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy headed back to San Francisco, where they’ll help introduce Mark Melancon at a Friday press conference. Bobby Evans and Dick Tidrow went off in search of a good BBQ joint. It was a relaxed group, one that knows the heavy lifting is done. 

The Giants are set in their rotation and bullpen, with any further additions coming as non-roster invitees. They would like more bench depth, but the lone open spot in the lineup is in left field, and there’s a commitment to give Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker a shot. 

There are several big outfield names left on the market, but the Giants are already at about $200 million in payroll, $5 million above the competitive balance tax. Because they’re paying the tax for the third consecutive year, any additional dollar spent would be taxed at 50 percent. 

So, say the Giants signed a Jon Jay-type. Jay got a one-year, $8 million deal with the Cubs, but it would essentially be a $12 million deal in San Francisco. The same holds true for the trade market, and while the Giants are open-minded about additions before spring training, it may be hard to find the right fit. 

The Giants checked in on Detroit’s J.D. Martinez, but Evans said any deal for Martinez or a similar veteran (Jay Bruce, who makes $13 million, is among those available) would have to include a significant salary being sent back to the other team to balance the books. It’s difficult to find the player who could be sent to a team like Detroit and balance out much of the incoming salary. Martinez is scheduled to make $11.75 million next year. The Giants have eight players making at least $11 million in 2017, but all but Matt Cain are locked into key roles. The three other players who could eat up a chunk of that salary — Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Matt Moore — are franchise building blocks.

Cain would be the only big salary that could be removed without leaving a new hole, but even if a team was willing to take it on (extremely unlikely) in some form, and you ignored the fact that Cain is competing for the fifth starter spot, there’s a zero percent chance the Giants ask their longest-tenured player to waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to a rebuilding team.

This is all a long way of saying what you already knew if you were soaking everything in this week: The Giants have gone over $200 million in total CBT payroll for the first time and don’t intend to add much more to that number in the offseason. 

As a fan, it’s your right to make the argument that you buy enough garlic fries and giraffe hats and No. 28 jerseys for the Giants to keep pushing into Dodger-Yankee territory. But both of those teams have also signaled a desire to get back under the tax at some point, and the Giants can counter that they’ve been as aggressive as any big-market team over the past 13 months, shelling out $313 million to two starters, a closer and a center fielder, and giving massive extensions to fan favorites Crawford and Belt. 

As the Giants left National Harbor, they were thrilled to have picked up their first choice — Melancon — for closer. The important work is done, the payroll is about set, and the camp competitions will begin soon. The marquee one will be in left. Williamson and Parker will form a partnership for about $1 million combined. 

“I think at this point they need playing time,” Bochy said on our Giants Insider Podcast. “Parker has had a lot more at-bats in the minor leagues than Mac. What I do like about Parker is he cut back on the strikeouts, he laid off on some of those secondary pitches down below the strike zone and did a better job of that. Mac had to deal with a couple of injuries but he got on a good roll there. It’s nice to have two potential power guys, which is something we need.”

You can listen to the full Bochy podcast here. You can watch the Melancon press conference on Friday at 1 p.m. on CSN Bay Area. What you shouldn’t do, barring an unforeseen change in the organization’s thinking or the market, is expect another big splash.