A family treasure of Ben's
Willie Mays and Ben at Willie's home
H ow Willie Mays made a little kid's dream come true
by Benson Wong

On May 6 of this year San Francisco Giants great Willie Mays turned 87.  Below is a tribute to Willie and how he fulfilled a young man's dreams.

Say hey, Happy 87th Birthday, Willie Mays! In my eyes, Willie Mays was the greatest baseball player of all time!

When I was eight years old I heard from a schoolmate that my hero, Willie Mays, had moved into the neighborhood, right down the block on Spruce Street 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 and told me, "I want you to stay in bed. No TV or playing around!"

Shortly after Mom left I got out of bed (I felt much better) and peeked out the window and watched her get on the No. 55 Sacramento bus. I then brushed my teeth, washed my face, and put on my Giants (Willie Mays #24) uniform, grabbed my cap, glove, bat, ball, 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 Mr. and Mrs. White. They were both passionate about getting a good education. Mrs. White was the consummate educator in the San Francisco United 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 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 came down the stairs and walked with me to the corner.

Mr. White softly said, "Okay. 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 I might be in Big Trouble."

I rang Willie's doorbell and when Willie pulled the handle (from the third floor which opened the front door down on the first floor), he called out, "Who's there?" in a deep and kind of loud and scary voice.

I answered in my eight-year-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 on the third floor that had a long, winding flight of stairs. When I got about halfway 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, "Okay, Willie."

When I finally got my ball, (which had bounced all the way back down to the first floor) and made it to the third floor, Willie was standing there with a spatula in his hand. I asked him what he was doing with that. (I smelled eggs cooking.) He didn't answer me but he had a smile on his face as he 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 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've got! Oh yeah, that says 'Willie Mays' for sure. You better keep that safe. That will be very valuable someday. You better hurry up and get to school now!"

I said, "Okay," but when I got home I was hungry so I got a spatula and pan out and made some scrambled eggs. Then I opened my lunch pail and ate the lunch Mom had 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. Yes!

And yes, I did get in a little trouble. I made the mistake of telling my older sister what happened. She couldn't wait for mom to get home so 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 San Francisco 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 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 confidence and knowledge that I could create and have just about anything I wanted in life, if I set my mind to it

Benson Wong was born in Oakland in 1952 and has maintained a life-long passion for sports, especially baseball. In addition to work stints with UPS and FedEx, Benson played in a men's senior baseball league for 16 years. He married his high school sweetheart, Cathi, and together have two children, son Brent and daughter Lauren.
3-6-17 - Pops

Michael King (left), with an associate from USF (center), and Karla Granadino-King, are pictured at the Olympic Club in San Francisco,  proudly sharing with the world their  Pops Premium Rumpopo. A King family secret, Pops Premium Rumpopo is a  delicious rum cream liqueur recipe brewed in the family tradition.  The award winning recipe is a Belizean family favorite and now available at all Total Wine & More stores in California and Bay Area retailers.
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