After making his major league debut in 1951, duty called for Willie Mays. He missed much of the 1952 season and all of ’53 in military service, although much of his time in the Army was spent playing ball. When he returned in ’54, the New York Giants center fielder not only didn’t miss a beat, he became baseball’s best player and began drawing attention from major national media outlets.
The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day is an original 11×14 photo of Mays in 1954, taken by well-known photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. The back carries a stamp from Sports Illustrated magazine. The photo has some minor creasing at the corners and a photo editor’s pencil markings on the back.
The photo is “the only original example of this image we have ever seen,” according to RMY’s online catalog. Bidding had topped $1,100 with bidding open through Saturday.
Mays was named National League MVP after belting 41 homers and hitting .345 that season, leading the Giants to the pennant—and then a sweep of Cleveland in the World Series. It was during that Series when he made his famous over the shoulder catch of Vic Wertz’s long drive at the Polo Grounds.
The photo is one of over 1,200 in RMY’s July Premier Auction.