In 1954, Willie Mays was 23 years old. That year he hit 41 home runs, had a .345 average, and was the National League MVP. And here he is, at his rented apartment in a Harlem walk-up with his landlady, one Mrs. Goosby, looking protectively over his shoulder as he eats.
So, to repeat: National League MVP. Tiny walk-up rental in Harlem, complete with a stunning brick-wall view.
Jayson Werth (to choose one random very, very highly paid contemporary ballplayer) will make $16,000,000 this year.
Just putting it out there.
Ben Cosgrove is the editor of LIFE.com. Picture This is his weekly (and occasionally more frequent) feature for The Stacks.
Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images