Sports

June 19, 2024

Baseball legend Willie Mays dead at 93

Baseball legend Willie Mays dead at 93

(FILES) Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays listens as U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants to the White House June 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. – Baseball icon Willie Mays, one of the greatest players in the sport’s history beloved for dazzling skill and athletic grace, died June 18, 2024 aged 93, his family announced. Mays’ family confirmed the baseball icon’s passing in a joint statement with his former team the San Francisco Giants. (Photo by WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

Baseball icon Willie Mays, one of the greatest players in the sport’s history and beloved his for dazzling skill and athletic grace, died Tuesday aged 93, his family announced.

Mays’ family confirmed the baseball icon’s passing in a joint statement with his former team the San Francisco Giants.

“My father has passed away peacefully and among loved ones,” son Michael Mays said in the statement.

“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.”

Giants chairman Greg Johnson said Mays, the first Black player to captain a Major League Baseball club, had left a mark which extended far beyond his sport.

“Today we have lost a true legend,” Johnson said. “In the pantheon of baseball greats, Willie Mays’ combination of tremendous talent, keen intellect, showmanship, and boundless joy set him apart.

“He had a profound influence not only on the game of baseball, but on the fabric of America. He was an inspiration and a hero who will be forever remembered and deeply missed.”

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred saluted center-fielder Mays as a star who inspired “generations of players and fans.”

“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,” Manfred said.

“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.”

Mays, affectionately known as the “Say Hey Kid”, was born in Alabama in 1931, and first played baseball with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League in 1948.

He was subsequently signed by the Giants, then based in New York, in 1950, making his debut in the 1951 season where he dazzled with 20 home runs and won the Rookie of the Year award.

Three years later he helped the Giants win the World Series, the franchise’s last baseball title before they relocated to San Francisco.

It was during the 1954 World Series that Mays pulled off one of the most famous plays in baseball history, a jaw-dropping over-the-shoulder catch during a game one victory that came to be known simply as “The Catch.”

That eighth inning showstopper against the Cleveland Indians kept the score knotted at 2-2 and the Giants would go on to win 5-2 in extra innings.

Mays would later modestly play down his achievements, insisting he never kept an inventory of his many highlight reel-worthy catches and hits, preferring instead to concentrate on winning.

“I can’t tell you about moments because I wasn’t into that,” he once told an interviewer.

“I just played every day and enjoyed what I was doing. When I made a great catch it was just routine. I didn’t worry about it. Winning was important. Winning.”

His philosophical approach to baseball was rooted in simplicity.

“They throw the ball, I hit it. They hit the ball, I catch it,” he once said.

Mays retired from baseball in 1973, ending his career with the New York Mets after playing with the Giants from 1951 to 1972.

As well as helping the Giants to the 1954 World Series, he won two Most Valuable Player awards, 11 years apart. He hit 660 home runs, which is sixth on MLB’s all-time list.

A 24-time All-Star he was ushered into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1979.

In 2015, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by US President Barack Obama.

“Willie Mays wasn’t just a singular athlete, blessed with an unmatched combination of grace, skill and power,” Obama wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday.

“He was also a wonderfully warm and generous person – and an inspiration to an entire generation.”

Vanguard News