Sep 14, 2009, 9:45 AM EST
Between 1951 and 1973, the Yankees won 12 pennants and seven World Championships. Between 1951 and 1973, Willie Mays established himself as the greatest centerfielder in the history of baseball, and depending on how you measure it, one of the top three or four players of all time (I got Ruth and Wagner 1-2, and I’d be hard pressed to put anyone else above Mays). Imagine, then, what could have happened if the Yankees had listened to their scouts and signed him in 1949 and 1950 when they had the chance. Seems they could have had Ernie Banks too.
I’m not a huge alternate history buff, but the implications of Willie Mays on the 1950s and 1960s New York Yankees boggle the mind. You have to figure that he moves Mantle off of centerfield and to a corner. Does Mantle hold up better health-wise playing right field? Heck, maybe the Yankees try to make Mantle work at shortstop where he started out, he flames out on defense and is allowed to get signed by the St. Louis Browns or something. Does Mays gain the same reputation for his speed and defense playing in a smaller centerfield in the non-running American League? Does Giants owner Horace Stoneham get the same kind of offer he received from San Francisco to move the team west, or is he stuck with his original plan to move the Giants to Minnesota? The shoes that drop (or don’t) after that business is dealt with are innumerable, but this Braves fan likes the idea of there being no Minnesota Twins in 1991.
I’m sure there are 1,000 other implications of such a move. If you have any particularly mind-blowing ones, by all means, offer them up in the comments.
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