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Willie Mays, supreme baseball expertise among the many finest to ever play, dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose prodigious power, blinding speed and eye-popping defense thrilled fans coast to coast during baseball’s golden era, died Tuesday, the San Francisco Giants announced. He was 93. “It is with great sadness that we announce that San Francisco Giants Legend and Hall of Famer Willie Mays passed away peacefully this afternoon at the

Willie Mays, supreme baseball expertise among the many finest to ever play, dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose prodigious energy, blinding velocity and eye-popping protection thrilled followers coast to coast throughout baseball’s golden period, died Tuesday, the San Francisco Giants introduced. He was 93.

It’s with nice disappointment that we announce that San Francisco Giants Legend and Corridor of Famer Willie Mays handed away peacefully this afternoon on the age of 93,” the Giants said in a statement.

Nicknamed the “Say Hey Child” for his boundless enthusiasm and penchant for greeting everybody, “Say hey,” Mays performed for 22 big-league seasons, breaking in with the New York Giants in 1951 after which changing into a fixture in San Francisco when the franchise moved west. He ended his profession again in New York with the Mets in 1973.

Mays was the game’s consummate “five-tool” expertise — he may hit for a excessive batting common, blast residence runs, gallop across the bases, catch the ball and throw it with authority.

He recorded a .301 profession batting common, slugged 660 home runs (sixth most all-time), banged out 3,293 hits (twelfth most), amassed 1,909 runs batted in (eleventh most) and scored 2,068 runs (seventh most). 

Willie Mays slides safely into the plate on Wes Westrum's base in the sixth inning of the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at the Polo Grounds, New York.
Willie Mays slides safely into the plate on Wes Westrum’s base within the sixth inning of the sport in opposition to the Philadelphia Phillies on the Polo Grounds, New York, on April 1, 1951. Bettmann Archive through Getty Pictures file

Mays’ prowess with the bat was solely matched by his capacity to catch any baseball hit in his zip code.

He recorded 7,112 putouts as an outfielder, topping different legends equivalent to Tris Speaker (6,788) and Rickey Henderson (6,468). Mays additionally received 12 Gold Glove awards, tied for essentially the most by an outfielder with Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mays is credited with making the greatest defensive play in baseball history — an over-the-shoulder snag in Sport 1 of the 1954 World Sequence, capturing a drive off the bat of Cleveland Indians slugger Vic Wertz.

Mays sprinted into deep heart and had his again to residence plate, 425 ft away, when he made “the catch” on Sept. 29, 1954, on the Polo Grounds in Higher Manhattan.

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Corridor of Fame sportscaster Jack Brickhouse referred to as the play: “Willie Mays simply introduced this crowd to its ft with a catch which will need to have been an optical phantasm to lots of people.”

The MVP award for the most effective participant of the World Sequence was named after Mays in 2017.

Main League Baseball on Tuesday called Mays “one of the thrilling all-around gamers within the historical past of our sport.”

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stated Mays had “a profession and a legacy like no different” and listed his spectacular accomplishments.

“And but his unimaginable achievements and statistics don’t start to explain the awe that got here with watching Willie Mays dominate the sport in each manner possible. We’ll always remember this true Big on and off the sector,” Manfred said in a statement.

“On behalf of Main League Baseball, I lengthen my deepest condolences to Willie’s household, his associates throughout our recreation, Giants followers in all places, and his numerous admirers the world over.”

Mays performed within the previous Negro Leagues and was among the many first era of African American gamers in Main League Baseball, competing alongside and in opposition to future Corridor of Fame greats like Monte Irvin (a teammate), Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks.

Then-President Barack Obama praised Mays, a Korean Warfare veteran, in 2015 when awarding him the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“His quiet instance whereas excelling on considered one of America’s greatest phases helped carry ahead the banner of civil rights,” Obama, America’s first Black president, stated. “It’s due to giants like Willie that somebody like me may even take into consideration operating for president.”

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On Tuesday night time, Obama reiterated Mays’ impression on America.

“Willie Mays wasn’t only a singular athlete, blessed with an unmatched mixture of grace, ability and energy,” the previous president stated in a press release. “He was additionally a splendidly heat and beneficiant individual — and an inspiration to a complete era. I’m fortunate to have hung out with him through the years, and Michelle and I ship our deepest condolences to his household.”

Then-President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Willie Mays on Nov. 24, 2015, in Washington.
Then-President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Willie Mays, in Washington, on Nov. 24, 2015. Evan Vucci / AP file

President Joe Biden stated in a press release on Wednesday, “Like so many others in my neighborhood and across the nation, after I performed Little League, I needed to play centerfield due to Willie Mays.”

“He not solely entertained, above all, he impressed thousands and thousands of individuals of all races to assist break via the colour line of sports activities, and to interrupt via the conscience of the Nation,” Biden stated.

“He handed away final night time and right this moment the Nation marks Juneteenth, a day of profound weight and energy that reminds ourselves of the extraordinary capability to emerge from essentially the most painful moments with a greater model of ourselves,” the president continued. “On at the present time, we bear in mind Willie Mays as a part of the long-line of Black patriots who’ve helped us see a greater model of ourselves as Individuals and as a Nation.”

Mays was referred to as as much as the massive leagues in 1951 and made a right away impression — successful the Nationwide League’s Rookie of the 12 months award for his pennant-winning Giants.

Mays had a front-row seat to maybe the only most thrilling second in baseball historical past, when teammate Bobby Thomson blasted the “Shot Heard ‘Around the World,” a decisive three-run homer in opposition to the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the Nationwide League pennant on Oct. 3, 1951.

Mays was within the on-deck circle when Thomson, nicknamed “The Flying Scot,” hit the homer that thrilled New York baseball followers and 1000’s of U.S. servicemen listening on Armed Forces Radio in Korea.

Mays stated he was satisfied the Dodgers would stroll Thomson to face him, then a 20-year-old rookie. He was so centered on what he’d must do on the plate that Mays stated he didn’t even discover Thomson’s game-ending, pennant-winning hit.

“When Bobby hit the house run, I used to be the final man to get to residence plate” to have a good time, stated Mays, believing the ball had been caught, “and I’m saying to myself, You’re on deck, idiot, rise up to the plate immediately.’ ”

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Mays was heart stage throughout New York’s golden period of baseball when the Giants, Dodgers and Yankees dominated America’s pastime.

From Robinson’s rookie yr in 1947 to the Giants and Dodgers ultimate season in New York in 1957, at the very least a kind of three New York groups performed in 10 of 11 World Sequence.

A New York Metropolis staff received 9 world titles in these years, and there have been six all-Massive Apple Fall Classics.

And all of these nice New York Metropolis groups had Corridor of Fame heart fielders — Mays, Mickey Mantle of the Yankees and Duke Snider of the Dodgers — resulting in a era of faculty children within the 5 boroughs arguing over who was the most effective.

A 1981 track and ode to America’s pastime by Terry Cashman was appropriately titled “Talkin’ Baseball: Willie, Mickey & The Duke.”

Willie Howard Mays was born on Might 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama, the son of steelworker William Howard “Cat” Mays and Anna Mays, previously Sattlewhite.

His father and grandfather performed semi-pro baseball whereas his mother was a prime basketball participant and observe athlete in highschool.

By age 16, Mays was taking part in for the Birmingham Black Barons, the famed Negro League membership. He excelled taking part in in opposition to grown males of their 20s and 30s.

Giants scout Eddie Montague noticed Mays and instructed his bosses in New York to signal him instantly.

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“They acquired a child taking part in heart area virtually barefooted that’s the most effective ballplayer I ever checked out,” Montague reported, in line with a e-book by Mays’ future Giants supervisor Leo Durocher, “Good Guys End Final.”

“You higher ship somebody down there with a barrelful of cash and seize this child.”

The Giants signed Mays to a minor league deal in 1950, giving him $4,000 and the Black Barons $10,000, earlier than he was shining beneath New York’s brilliant lights a yr later.

After dropping the entire 1953 marketing campaign serving within the Korean Warfare, Mays didn’t miss a beat in 1954.

He was that season’s Nationwide League Most Precious Participant and led the Giants to the title.

Willie Mays with teammates Monte Irvin and Henry Thompson.
Willie Mays with teammates Monte Irvin and Henry Thompson.Bettmann Archive through Getty Pictures file

After the franchise moved to San Francisco for the 1958 season, Mays made the All-Star Sport yearly as a Big and received the N.L. MVP once more in 1965.

In lots of circles, Mays is taken into account the sport’s best all-around expertise regardless of gathering simply two MVP awards. For instance, Mays’ godson Barry Bonds received that honor seven occasions.

Though fashionable statistical metrics would possibly place Mays as baseball’s third-greatest participant — behind Babe Ruth and Bonds — nobody may match the Say Hey Child’s aptitude for the sport.

“I can’t consider that Babe Ruth was a greater participant than Willie Mays,” all-time pitching nice Sandy Koufax as soon as stated. “Ruth is to baseball what Arnold Palmer is to golf. He acquired the sport shifting. However I can’t consider he may run in addition to Mays, and I can’t consider he was any higher an outfielder.”

Mays ended his profession again in New York, traded to the Mets in 1972.

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There have been occasional glimpses of previous glory. His first hit for his new staff was a game-winning homer at Shea Stadium on Might 14 in opposition to his former Giants teammates.

Nonetheless, Mays’ New York revival proved something however a showstopper.

At age 42 in 1973, Mays couldn’t outrun Father Time and sadly grew to become an emblem of athletes who stick round a bit of too lengthy.

He was a bench participant on the Mets’ inconceivable N.L.-winning “You Gotta Consider” staff that fell to the Oakland A’s in seven video games within the 1973 World Sequence. In Sport 2, Mays chased a drive hit by Deron Johnson and fell flat on his face, a stunning sight to baseball followers who nonetheless remembered the famed 1954 Polo Floor snag off Wertz.

Later that very same recreation, Mays misplaced a ball — hit by future Yankees legend Reggie Jackson — within the solar for a triple. He partly redeemed himself later in that day, hitting an RBI-single (Mays’ final profession hit) within the twelfth inning, as Mets went on to win Game 2 to even the collection.

However Mets supervisor Yogi Berra had misplaced confidence in Mays, who acquired to the plate only one extra time the remainder of the collection (he grounded out).

He was saved on the bench when the Mets went to different pinch hitters in a Sport 7 loss at Oakland.

Mays dressed shortly and bitterly left the clubhouse, denied what he had hoped to be a Thomson-like second he had witnessed 22 years earlier.

“Did Mays play too lengthy? In fact. However so did … numerous others who needed to stretch their glory,” wrote James Hirsch within the biography “Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend.”

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“However Mays is synonymous with this specific sin for one cause: He dedicated it within the World Sequence, on tv. The very medium that was central to the legend, that broadcast his items to all corners of America.”

Though Mays was bitter about how his taking part in profession ended, in later years he spoke fondly of these ultimate seasons in Flushing, Queens — with specific heat for Mets proprietor Joan Payson, who engineered his New York return.

Earlier than bringing the Mets into existence, Payson was a diehard New York Giants fan. She was on the staff’s board of administrators and voted in opposition to the transfer to San Francisco.

Mays stated he needed to hold it up earlier than 1973, however Payson begged him to remain.

“I performed the yr out in ‘72 and I stated, Possibly I ought to give up (in) ‘73 and Mrs. Payson wouldn’t let me give up,” Mays stated in a 2010 interview with GQ journal. “I loved it as a result of it was enjoyable to see the fellows successful.”

Beneficiant to a fault and admittedly careless with cash, Mays struggled in his post-playing years.

With out the construction of professional sports activities, Mays could be chronically late or all collectively miss appointments. However his title nonetheless had worth and corporations, equivalent to Atlantic Metropolis inns, coveted even essentially the most tangential Mays connection to their properties.

Up to date and youthful followers, who pour thousands and thousands of {dollars} into fantasy leagues and on-line playing, would possibly discover it exhausting to consider that Mays and Mantle have been each banned from MLB for a number of years within the Eighties for his or her unfastened Atlantic Metropolis connections.

Mays took a largely ceremonial job with Bally’s Park Place On line casino Resort in 1979 whereas Mantle did the identical for the Claridge On line casino Resort.

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MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn likened these jobs to playing and banned them each from all huge league actions.

These revocations have been overturned in 1985 when former Olympics chief Peter Ueberroth grew to become MLB commissioner. Ueberroth recalled sitting on a Southern California seashore, going over MLB information on Mays and Mantle’s banishments and failing to understand why they have been persona non grata.

“There was actually nothing there,” Ueberroth instructed The Los Angeles Instances. “They’d performed golf at casino-sponsored outings as celebrities; they have been on on line casino billboards, however selling golf occasions, not playing.”

He concluded: “It wasn’t even a detailed name. No umpire wanted.”

Mays insisted his work in Atlantic Metropolis was fully blown out of proportion by Kuhn.

“I’m very happy to be again in baseball despite the fact that I didn’t do something unsuitable to go away baseball,” Mays stated on the 1985 information convention that heralded his return.

All through his profession and for many years after, Mays’ title in popular culture was synonymous with greatness and the game itself.

Willie Mays smiles while a student from P.S. 46 with the Major League Baseball World Series trophy in Harlem, New York on January 21, 2011.
Willie Mays smiles whereas a scholar from P.S. 46 with the Main League Baseball World Sequence trophy in Harlem, New York on January 21, 2011.Shannon Stapleton / Alamy file

“Peanuts” animator Charles Schultz, a Northern California native and big Giants fan, drew a 1966 cartoon of Charlie Brown dropping a spelling bee when he was requested to spell the phrase maze, just like the puzzle. Charlie Brown spelled it: “M-A-Y-S.”

John Fogerty’s 1985 hit “Centerfield” used Mays’ title as a metaphor for the boundless pleasure of baseball: “So say hey, Willie, inform Ty Cobb, and Joe DiMaggio. Don’t say ‘it ain’t so,’ you recognize the time is now.”

Within the 1989 baseball comedy “Main League,” Wesley Snipes performed fast-talking speedster Willie Mays Hayes, who launched himself to teammates: “Say hey! Willie Mays Hays right here: Play like Mays and I run like (Olympic gold medal sprinter Bob) Hayes. How ya doing?”

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In a 1997 episode of “Star Trek: Deep Area 9,” the son of Capt. Sisko searched the universe for a rookie Mays baseball card as a birthday present for dad, exhibiting that the Say Hey Child was nonetheless baseball’s most famed title 3,000 years into the longer term.

Mays had quite a few TV appearances, together with on “Bewitched,” “The Donna Reed Present,” “My Two Dads” and “Mr. Belvedere.”

Regardless of a Corridor of Fame profession that performed out largely in San Francisco, Mays by no means forgot his New York roots.

Months after the Giants captured the 2010 World Sequence — the franchise’s first since leaving New York — Mays introduced the Commissioner’s Trophy to P.S. 46 in Harlem, a house run’s distance away from the place the Polo Grounds as soon as stood.

“This is my neighborhood!” he instructed college students that snowy morning on Jan. 21, 2011.

As a participant for the New York Giants, Mays lived on St. Nicholas Place, blocks from work, and would play stickball with children on the street within the mornings earlier than and evenings after video games on the Polo Grounds.

“I used to have possibly 10 children come to my window. Each morning, they’d come at 9 o’clock,” Mays as soon as stated. “They’d knock on my window, to get me up. … So I performed with them for about possibly an hour.”

When San Francisco received all of it once more in 2014, Mays introduced the trophy to New York for a gathering with old-time Giants followers on the New York Palace Hotel on Jan. 24, 2015.

When requested the way it felt to be again in Manhattan, Mays stated he’ll all the time have a particular place in his coronary heart for New York.

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“I by no means left,” Mays, who maintained an house within the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx all these years, stated, bringing a roar of laughter from the gang.

He thanked New York baseball followers: “Once they such as you, they love you.”

Hall of Famer Willie Mays waves to the crowd during the pre-game celebration in honor of his 90th birthday on May 7, 2021 in San Francisco, Calif.
Corridor of Famer Willie Mays waves to the gang throughout the pre-game celebration in honor of his ninetieth birthday, in San Francisco, on Might 7, 2021.Daniel Shirey / MLB Images through Getty Pictures file

Mays married Margherite Wendell Chapman in 1956. After they divorced, he married Mae Louise Allen in 1971; each predeceased him. He and Chapman adopted one son, Michael.

Mays, who wore uniform No. 24 all through his profession, is all the time honored in each letter mailed to the San Francisco Giants, headquartered at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, California, 94107.

This week, MLB is paying tribute to the Negro Leagues at Rickwood Subject in Birmingham, Alabama, which is the place Mays performed for the Birmingham Black Barons. The Giants and St. Louis Cardinals will take the sector Thursday.

Mays hoped to attend however had been dealing with mobility points, forcing him to say this week he wouldn’t be able to attend.


“It was my begin. My first job. You always remember that,” Mays stated in a press release on Monday.

“I am glad that the Giants, Cardinals and MLB are doing this, letting everybody get to see professional ball at Rickwood Subject,” he continued. “Meals to remind individuals of all the nice ball that has been performed there, and all of the gamers. All these years and it’s nonetheless right here. So am I. How about that?”


David K. Li

David Okay. Li is a senior breaking information reporter for NBC Information Digital.

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