Baseball Execs, Former President Obama Mourn Death of ‘Say Hey Kid’ Willie Mays

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
June 19, 2024Sports News
Baseball Execs, Former President Obama Mourn Death of ‘Say Hey Kid’ Willie Mays
An image of Willie Mays is displayed on the video board while everyone observed a moment of silence during the sixth inning of a game between the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field in Chicago on June 18, 2024. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball is mourning the death of Willie Mays, the former Giants and one of the greatest and most beloved players in the game’s history.

The “Say Hey Kid” passed away on June 18 at the age of 93.

“My father has passed away peacefully and among loved ones,” Mays’ son, Michael Mays, said in a statement released by the Giants. “I want to thank you all from the bottom of my broken heart for the unwavering love you have shown him over the years. You have been his life’s blood.”

Mays was a 24-time All-Star center fielder who played for the Giants in New York and San Francisco for over two decades. He is one of four players to record more than 600 home runs and over 3,000 hits.

He was baseball’s oldest living Hall of Famer, where he was inducted in 1979—the first year of his eligibility. The Giants retired his uniform number, 24, in 1972, and their new stadium features a 9-foot statue of Mays at the public entrance.

The Giants and St. Louis Cardinals will honor the Negro Leagues, where Mays began his career in 1948, at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, on June 20.

“All of Major League Baseball is in mourning today as we are gathered at the very ballpark where a career and a legacy like no other began,” Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said in a statement.

“Willie Mays took his all-around brilliance from the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League to the historic Giants franchise. From coast to coast in New York and San Francisco, Willie inspired generations of players and fans as the game grew and truly earned its place as our National Pastime,” he added.

Mays, who was born on May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama, had many memorable hits and defensive plays throughout his 23-year career. However, he managed one of the most iconic catches in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series.

With the game tied 2–2 between the Giants and Cleveland, the Indians’ Vic Wertz hit a deep ball to center field that appeared to be on its way for a two-run double or triple. But Mays ran toward the wall and made the out with an over-the-shoulder catch before heaving the ball to the infield.

The Giants swept the Indians, and in 2017, MLB named the World Series Most Valuable Player after Mays because of his performance in 1954. Mays appeared in three other World Series (1951, 1962, and 1973) but left with one title.

“I fell in love with baseball because of Willie, plain and simple,” said Giants President and Chief Executive Officer Larry Baer in a statement. “My childhood was defined by going to Candlestick with my dad, watching Willie patrol centerfield with grace and the ultimate athleticism. Over the past 30 years, working with Willie, and seeing firsthand his zest for life and unbridled passion for giving to young players and kids, has been one of the joys of my life.”

Mays was long remembered not only for his prowess on the field but also for breaking down racial barriers.

In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Mays the Medal of Freedom. The medal is considered the nation’s highest civilian honor, “presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House.

The former president honored Mays after hearing about his death.

“Willie Mays wasn’t just a singular athlete, blessed with an unmatched combination of grace, skill and power,” he wrote on X, on June 18.

“He was also a wonderfully warm and generous person – and an inspiration to an entire generation. I’m lucky to have spent time with him over the years, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family.”

NTD Photo
U.S. President Barack Obama (C) receives a jersey from Hall of Fame player Willie Mays (L) and San Francisco Giants General Manager Brian Sabean (R) during an event with the World Series champions in the East Room of the White House in Washington on July 25, 2011. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

For more than two decades in MLB, Mays was a five-tool player with his ability for his power, the ability to hit for average, his fielding prowess, the ability to throw, and his speed. He finished with six 40-home run seasons and had four stolen base titles.

Defensively, Mays won 12 Gold Glove Awards in center field.

“Just as his career was ascending, Willie served his country in the U.S. Army in 1952 and 1953. As the 1954 NL MVP, he led the Giants to victory in the World Series, in which he made one of the most memorable plays ever with ‘The Catch’ in the deep center field of the Polo Grounds,” Manfred stated.

“All told, Willie was a two-time MVP, a 24-time All-Star, a 12-time Gold Glover, a selection as one of the game’s Greatest Living Players in 2015, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom later that year. And yet his incredible achievements and statistics do not begin to describe the awe that came with watching Willie Mays dominate the game in every way imaginable,” he continued.

“We will never forget this true Giant on and off the field. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Willie’s family, his friends across our game, Giants fans everywhere, and his countless admirers across the world.”

From The Epoch Times