Back on Sept. 17, Jim Harbaugh revealed a personal anecdote to the Bay Area media. A day after his team had A-list Hollywood actors Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson crashing the locker room celebration for the team’s Week 2 win over the Detroit Lions, Harbaugh made it known he was seeking other well-known visitors.
“Hopefully someday we can get Willie Mays here and Muhammad Ali,” Harbaugh said. “That would be big.”
Asked if a meeting was in the works, Harbaugh replied that he’d been working on arranging a visit from “The Say Hey Kid,” and added that he wanted to have a simple interaction with the San Francisco Giants Hall of Fame outfielder.
“I just want to go up to him and shake his hand and tell him that me and my dad think he’s the greatest baseball player in the history of the game,” Harbaugh said. “That’s all I really want to do. Someday I’ll be able to, hopefully.”
That someday turned out to be Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2012.
Mays attended the end of 49ers practice at the team’s Santa Clara headquarters, spoke with the group after practice, signed autographs for everyone in sight and also posed for a number of photos. The 49ers returned the favor by presenting Mays with his very own No. 24 jersey.
Harbaugh was soaking up every minute as was his players; many came back for multiple autographs, including NFC Defensive Player of the Week Patrick Willis, who hustled back from the locker room to ask Mays for a personalized autograph.
Mays obliged. Soon after, Harbaugh pointed out that Willis was also raised in the south. Mays grew up in Fairfield, Ala., while Willis hails from Bruceton, Tenn.
Mays’ face lit up when he heard Harbaugh’s words, and then he asked Willis if he’d heard of a specific ballpark in Tennessee that he played in during his youth.
Willis didn’t recall the stadium, but was quick to point out to Mays he was an All-District baseball player in high school.
The interaction with a living legend was a positive one for the 49ers players and staff members. Many rushed to their social media accounts to share photos and details of their experience meeting the all-time great.
Tags: Al Netter, Anthony Dixon, Bruce Miller, Daniel Kilgore, Jim Harbaugh, Joe Staley, Patrick Willis
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