Baseball Legend Willie Mays Passes, 93

Willie Mays, whose prodigious power, blinding speed and eye-popping defense thrilled fans across America during baseball’s golden era, died Tuesday, the San Francisco Giants announced. He was 93.

Willie Mays at the “Mr. 3000” Los Angeles Premiere at the El Capitan Theatre, Hollywood, CA. 09-08-04

“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 age of 93,” the Giants said in a statement.

Nicknamed the “Say Hey Kid” for his boundless enthusiasm and penchant for greeting everyone with “Say hey,” Mays played for 22 major league seasons. He debuted with the New York Giants in 1951 and became a fixture in San Francisco when the franchise moved west. He concluded his career with the New York Mets in 1973.

Mays was the sport’s consummate “five-tool” talent — he could hit for a high batting average, blast home runs, gallop around the bases, catch the ball and throw it with authority.

His career statistics are legendary: a .301 batting average, 660 home runs (sixth all-time), 3,293 hits (12th all-time), 1,909 RBIs (11th all-time) and 2,068 runs scored (seventh all-time). Mays’ prowess at the plate was only matched by his ability to catch any baseball hit in his direction.

As an outfielder, Mays recorded 7,112 putouts, surpassing legends like Tris Speaker (6,788) and Rickey Henderson (6,468). He won 12 Gold Glove awards, tied for the most by an outfielder with Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mays is credited with making one of the greatest defensive plays in baseball history — an over-the-shoulder catch in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series off a drive from Cleveland Indians slugger Vic Wertz.

Mays sprinted into deep center, his back to home plate, 425 feet away, when he made “the catch” on Sept. 29, 1954, at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan.

Hall of Fame sportscaster Jack Brickhouse described the play: “Willie Mays just brought this crowd to its feet with a catch which must have been an optical illusion to a lot of people.”

In 2017, Major League Baseball named the MVP award for the best player of the World Series after Mays. On Tuesday, MLB called Mays “one of the most exciting all-around players in the history of our sport.”

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred praised Mays for his unparalleled career and legacy.

“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. We will never forget this true Giant on and off the field,” Manfred said in a statement.

“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 played in the Negro Leagues and was among the first generation of African American players in Major League Baseball, competing alongside and against future Hall of Famers like Monte Irvin, Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks. Then-President Barack Obama honored Mays, a Korean War veteran, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

“His quiet example while excelling on one of America’s biggest stages helped carry forward the banner of civil rights,” Obama said at the time. “It’s because of giants like Willie that someone like me could even think about running for president.”

On Tuesday night, Obama reiterated Mays’ impact on America.

“Willie Mays wasn’t just a singular athlete, blessed with an unmatched combination of grace, skill and power,” the former president said in a statement. “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.”

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