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Willie Mays | Source: Getty Images
Willie Mays | Source: Getty Images

Willie Mays, Baseball Legend and Hall of Famer, Passes Away

Christell Fatima M. Tudtud
Jun 18, 2024
10:33 P.M.

Willie Mays, the illustrious Hall of Famer and baseball legend, has passed away at 93. Colleagues from the baseball community have shared their statements.

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Willie Mays, the iconic Hall of Famer, died at 93. His son Michael Mays, announced his passing in a statement released by the San Francisco (SF) Giants: "My father has passed away peacefully and among loved ones...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."

Willie Mays' family statement shared by the San Francisco Giants in June 2024. | Source: Instagram/sfgiants

Willie Mays' family statement shared by the San Francisco Giants in June 2024. | Source: Instagram/sfgiants

Mays reportedly died two days before a game between the Giants and St. Louis Cardinals to honor the Negro Leagues at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

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The SF Giants, Mays' longtime team, released a heartfelt statement with a tribute video. "He leaves us with a lasting reminder: To work hard and find joy in this great game, and this extraordinary life. Say Hey, Willie Mays. The best there ever was,” the statement read.

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The Major League Baseball (MLB) also paid tribute to Mays on Instagram, honoring him as "one of the most exciting all-around players in the history of our sport."

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Mays' illustrious career spanned over two decades, during which he earned two MVP awards, was selected as an All-Star 24 times, and won 12 Gold Glove Awards.

His legacy includes "The Catch," a remarkable play in the 1954 World Series, after which the World Series MVP Award was named in his honor in 2017. Mays was also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to former professional baseball player Willie Mays at the White House on November 24, 2015. | Source: Getty Images

Former U.S. President Barack Obama awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to former professional baseball player Willie Mays at the White House on November 24, 2015. | Source: Getty Images

Commissioner Rob Manfred also paid tribute, reflecting on Mays' transformative impact on baseball. "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," Manfred said.

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He also highlighted Mays' service in the U.S. Army and his numerous accolades, including being named one of the game's Greatest Living Players in 2015. Manfred extended condolences on behalf of MLB to Mays' family and fans, stating, "We will never forget this true Giant on and off the field."

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Willie Mays bats during the Major League Baseball All-Star game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati on July 14, 1970. | Source: Getty Images

Willie Mays bats during the Major League Baseball All-Star game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati on July 14, 1970. | Source: Getty Images

He said that Thursday's game at historic Rickwood Field, originally planned to celebrate Mays and his peers, will now serve as a national remembrance of his enduring legacy.

Willie Mays looks up into the stands before a Major League Baseball game in the early 1970s. | Source: Getty Images

Willie Mays looks up into the stands before a Major League Baseball game in the early 1970s. | Source: Getty Images

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More tributes poured in from across the baseball community through X. The Los Angeles Angels remembered Mays' famous words: "The Angels organization joins Major League Baseball in mourning the loss of one of the game's true legends, Willie Mays. We send our condolences to his loved ones during this time and honor the legacy of the 'Say Hey Kid.'"

The New York Mets shared a black-and-white photo of Mays in their jersey, saying, "We join the baseball world in mourning the passing of Willie Mays."

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Meanwhile, the SF Giants on NBCS Players at Wrigley Field in Chicago held a moment of silence, with Mays' photo displayed on the big screen.

Tennis icon Billie Jean King recalled meeting Mays several years ago, stating, "It was a privilege to know him. We were both honored by @MLBin 2010 with the Beacon Award, given to civil rights pioneers."

Willie Mays and Billie Jean King talk before receiving their Beacon Awards at the Civil Rights Game in Cincinnati on May 15, 2010. | Source: Getty Images

Willie Mays and Billie Jean King talk before receiving their Beacon Awards at the Civil Rights Game in Cincinnati on May 15, 2010. | Source: Getty Images

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King added, "He was a such a kind soul, who gifted my brother Randy a new glove and a television during his rookie year with the @SFGiants. My deepest condolences to his family. He will be missed."

Mays was baseball’s oldest living Hall of Famer, known for his famous basket catch and joyful play. He made the iconic over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series, one of the sport's most celebrated defensive plays.

Willie Mays' famous one-hand catch in the 1954 World Series. | Source: Getty Images

Willie Mays' famous one-hand catch in the 1954 World Series. | Source: Getty Images

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He was one of the first Black athletes to gain mass media appeal. He guest-starred on sitcoms like "The Donna Reed Show" and "Bewitched."

Donna Reed and Willie Mays in the "The Donna Reed Show" in 1964. | Source: Getty Images

Donna Reed and Willie Mays in the "The Donna Reed Show" in 1964. | Source: Getty Images

He also inspired songs like Terry Cashman’s "Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey & The Duke)," which celebrated the era when New York had three future Hall of Famers: Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Duke Snider.

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Despite his success, Mays faced personal and professional challenges. His first marriage ended in divorce, and he often struggled financially before free agency. He also faced racism and was criticized for not being more outspoken during the civil rights movement. However, his legacy as one of baseball's greatest players remains untarnished.

Willie Mays waves his hat while riding around Oracle Park on May 7, 2021, in San Francisco. | Source: Getty Images

Willie Mays waves his hat while riding around Oracle Park on May 7, 2021, in San Francisco. | Source: Getty Images

Born in Westfield, Alabama, in 1931, Mays excelled in both basketball and baseball. He joined the Birmingham Black Barons in high school and was later signed by the SF Giants, eventually making his mark in the majors in 1951.

Mays' influence on baseball is immeasurable, and his passing marks the end of an era for America's pastime. His achievements and the joy he brought to the game will always be remembered by fans worldwide.

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