Baseball Icon “Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays Has Died At 93

Written by on June 19, 2024

The Mays’ family and the San Francisco Giants jointly announced Tuesday night Willie Mays had died earlier in the afternoon in the Bay Area. One of baseball’s greatest and most beloved players, Mays  began his professional career in the Negro Leagues in 1948, was baseball’s oldest living Hall of Famer. He was voted into the Hall in 1979, his first year of eligibility, and in 1999 followed only Babe Ruth on The Sporting News’ list of the game’s top stars. The Giants retired his uniform number, 24, and set their AT&T Park in San Francisco on Willie Mays Plaza. “My father has passed away peacefully and among loved ones,” son Michael Mays said in a statement released by the club. “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.”

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“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 Rob Manfred said. “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 … Willie inspired generations of players and fans as the game grew and truly earned its place as our National Pastime.”

Few were so blessed with each of the five essential qualities for a superstar — hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, fielding and throwing. Fewer so joyously exerted those qualities — whether launching home runs; dashing around the bases, loose-fitting cap flying off his head; or chasing down fly balls in center field and finishing the job with his trademark basket catch.

Over 23 major league seasons, virtually all with the New York/San Francisco Giants but also including one in the Negro Leagues, Mays batted .301, hit 660 home runs, totaled 3,293 hits, scored more than 2,000 runs and won 12 Gold Gloves. He was Rookie of the Year in 1951, twice was named the Most Valuable Player and finished in the top 10 for the MVP 10 other times. His lightning sprint and over-the-shoulder grab of an apparent extra base hit in the 1954 World Series remains the most celebrated defensive play in baseball history.

Between 1954 and 1966, Mays drove in 100 or more runs 10 times, scored 100 or more 12 times, hit 40 or more homers six times, more than 50 homers twice and led the league in stolen bases four times. His numbers might have been bigger. He missed most of 1952 and all of 1953 because of military service, quite possibly costing him the chance to overtake Ruth’s career home run record of 714, an honor that first went to Henry Aaron; then Mays’ godson, Barry Bonds. He likely would have won more Gold Gloves if the award had been established before 1956. He insisted he would have led the league in steals more often had he tried.

Source: AP News

 


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