Benson W.





How Willie Mays Made A Little Kid’s Dream Come True.

When I was 8 years old, I heard from a schoolmate that my hero, Willie Mays, moved into the neighborhood, right down the block on the corner of Spruce St. @ Sacramento St., in San Francisco.

One morning while Mom was rushing off to work, I informed her that I felt too sick to go to school. Mom stood in front of my bed, hands on her hips, and told me, “I want you to Stay in Bed, No TV and No Playing Around! I’m going to call and check up on you later!”

Shortly after Mom left, I got out of bed (I felt much better)…and peeked out the window and watched her get on the 55 Sacramento bus.

Then I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and put on my Giants (Willie Mays #24) uniform…grabbed my cap, glove, bat, ball, pen and autograph book…and headed down the street to pay Willie Mays a visit.

On my way to visit Willie, I was a little nervous about walking down the street and being seen by my neighbors, especially by Mr. & Mrs. White. They were both passionate about getting a good education. Mrs. White was the consummate educator in the San Francisco Unified School District for many years.

As I quickly walked past their house, I heard a voice calling out, “Young fella, where are you going? Aren’t you supposed to be in school? You shouldn’t be out playing ball now. You’ve got to get an education!”

I said, Hi Mr. White. I will, but I have to go see Willie Mays first. Mr. White responded, “Willie Mays, where???” I pointed to Willie’s building as Mr. White quickly came down the stairs and walked with me to the corner.

I asked Mr. White if he wanted to go see Willie with me. Mr. White softly said, “Ok, You better hurry up and go see Willie!”

As I got to Willie’s front door, I turned around and saw Mr. White watching me from across the street. I smiled and waved to him and thought, Good thing Mrs. White is at school or else we might be in Big Trouble.

I rang Willie’s doorbell and when Willie pulled the handle (from the 3rd floor) that opened the front door down on the 1st floor, he called out, “Who’s there?” in a deep, and kind of loud and scary voice. I answered (in my 8 yr. old, high pitched voice) “It’s me Willie. Can I have your autograph?” There was a slight pause, and then Willie said, “Come on up!”

Willie lived up on the third floor…that had a long, winding flight of stairs. When I got about half-way up the stairs, Willie asked me, “What’s taking you so long???” I answered, “I dropped my ball and it’s rolling down the stairs.” Willie said, “Well, hurry up and go get it!” I answered, “Ok Willie.”

When I finally got my ball, (which bounced all the way back down to the 1st floor) and made it to the 3rd floor, Willie was standing at the top of the stairs with a spatula in his hand. I said, hi to Willie, and asked him what he was doing with that. (I smelled eggs cooking) Willie didn’t answer me, but he had a smile on his face as he put the spatula between his knees and started signing my bat, glove, ball, and autograph book.

I then proceeded to make an innocent, but stupid comment: “Willie, You know what? You Are My Best Fan!” and Willie answered, “Oh Yeah?” I said, yeah. Then I said to myself, “How stupid of me!”…but I didn’t correct myself.

Then I asked Willie if I could see his trophies. Willie led me to a large glass display case that had some of his pictures, golden gloves, gold bats, balls, and other trophies. All I could say was, “WOW!”

Before I finally left Willie’s apartment, I had the nerve to ask Willie if I could be his batboy sometime, and he answered, “We’ll see. Come back another time because I have to get to the ballpark.” I thanked Willie and then left.

As I was walking home, I heard Mr. White’s voice, “Ben, well, let me see what you got! Oh yeah, that says Willie Mays for sure. That’s the real thing. Mmmm hmmm. You better keep that safe. That will be very valuable someday. You better hurry up and get to school now!”

I said, ok…but when I got home, I was a little hungry, so I got a spatula and pan out, and made some scrambled eggs. (I even put the spatula between my knees, just like Willie did.)

Then I opened my lunchpail and ate my lunch that Mom made for me. I stayed home for the rest of the day and kept thinking about what just happened. WoW, I did it! I saw Willie Mays and talked to him! Woo Hoo! Yes!

…and Yes, I did get in a little trouble. I made the mistake of getting too excited and telling my older sister what happened. She couldn’t wait for Mom to get home so that she could tattle on me…Sigh. I got a lecture and was probably grounded from something…can’t remember. But it was all worth it!

As you can imagine, I was on cloud nine, the happiest kid in the world.
The next season, I got to be a batboy for a day for Willie and the SF Giants.

Note: My parents found out about me being a batboy in Herb Caen’s column. I was shocked when my Dad showed me the short article and asked me about it. The article read something like, “The most envied kid in town. Benson Wong got to sit in the dugout and be Willie Mays’ batboy for the day.”

I wondered how Herb Caen knew??? I wish that I could find that article.

Willie Mays’ kindness helped set the tone for my love for sports. The simple dream of wanting to meet Willie Mays, and then making that dream come true, also helped mold my positive outlook on life and gave me the courage, confidence and knowingness that I could create and have just about anything I wanted in life, if I set my mind to it.