Memories of Willie Mays abound.

One sees a youthful, nervous Mays enduring an 0-22 slump on his promotion to the major leagues in 1951.

There is Mays smiling as he rounds the bases after getting his first major-league hit, a home run off Warren Spahn.

Visions flourish of routine basket catches in center field or catches on the fun while his cap falls off his head. So do all the strong throws that cut down unwise base runners trying to test his arm.

One sees Mays, his back to home plate, outrunning Vic Wertz's wallop to center field in the 1954 World Series, corraling the ball with one of baseball's greatest catches.

There is that classic swing sending one of his 660 lifetime home runs into the seats.

And the smile spreading across May's face whenever Leo Durocher (always Mr. Leo to Mays), his first manager in the majors, was around.

You remember the incongrous sight of Mays in a uniform with San Francisco on the chest in 1958 and, 15 years later, in one with Mets across the front.

And there is "Willie Mays Night" in 1973, when the "Say Hey Kid" tearfully bid farewell to baseball.

Monday, Mays enters the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Hack Wilson and Warren Giles. It is not an unexpected honor for Mays, nor was it surprising that he was named on 409 of 432 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America, a 94.6 percentage that was the highest since Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner made the Hall when the voting began in 1936.

Nor was there any shock when Mays, forthright as always, declared himself as the best player he had seen in his 22-year career - he missed part of 1952 and all of 1953 while in the military.

"Nobody in the world could do the things I could do," Mays said when elected to the Hall. "If you play ball, you have to believe you are the best. I never thought anybody could play the game better than me."

Nor could anyone entertain the fans better.

"I never played for myself. I always admitted. "Like the basket catch. It seemed natural and the fans liked it. I never cared about making sensational plays. I played for the people in the stands so they could go home from the game and say they enjoyed themselves."

Mays does not point to his Most Valuable Player awards in 1954 and 1965, or his Rookie of the Year honor in 1951, or his lifetime .302 batting average, or his 660 home runs, third only to Ruth and Henry Aaron, as the most satisfying aspect of his career.

"My greatest day had to be when I hit four home runs in a game in Milwaukee (April 30, 1961)" he noted. "But my best memories are of 1951."

After his first three games, all hitless, Mays recalled, "I just about quit right then because I wasn't producing. Leo told me, "You're my center fielder. Just forget that slump.""

The next night, he hit the homer off Spahn.

"From that day on, I went and played like a champion," he said.