Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Willie Mays dies at 93

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Baseball legend Willie Mays, widely considered one of the best players in the sport’s history, has died, according to the San Francisco Giants.

“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 team posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday.

A statement from Major League Baseball (MLB) said it was “heartbroken” over the death of “one of the most exciting all-around players in the history of our sport”.

Mays was twice declared the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) and won the World Series with the Giants in 1954.

Nicknamed the “Say Hey Kid”, the center fielder was baseball’s oldest living Hall of Famer.

His famous catch during the 1954 World Series remains one of the most iconic plays in the history of America’s so-called “National Pastime”.

In addition to his two MVP awards, he also finished in the top 10 runner-ups for MVP 10 other times.

Mays’ son, Michael, told the Associated Press that his father died in the presence of his family and wished to thank his fans for their years of support.

“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,” he said.

“You have been his life’s blood.”

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred also released a statement describing his impact on the game.

“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,” he wrote.

“We will never forget this true Giant on and off the field.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement that to people that grew up in the city, “some things just go without question… Willie Mays is the best there ever was”.

California Governor Gavin Newsom also praised Mays as “more than just a baseball icon”.

“He broke barriers and inspired millions of Americans — setting records, bringing joy to countless fans, and becoming a role model for a generation of future athletes.”

Despite having not played professional sports for over 50 years, the MLB added 10 more hits to his career record earlier this month, after deciding to incorporate statistics from the Negro League.

His record now stands at 3,293 hits, including the 10 he hit for the Birmingham Black Barons in 1948.

On Monday, Mays said he would not be able to attend a game in his honour that was scheduled for Thursday.

“I’m not able to get to Birmingham this year but will follow the game back here in the Bay Area,” Mays said in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

“My heart will be with all of you who are honoring the Negro League ballplayers, who should always be remembered, including all my teammates on the Black Barons.

“It’ll be a special day, and I hope the kids will enjoy it and be inspired by it.”

Mays was born and raised in Westfield, Alabama, and began his professional baseball career while still in high school in 1948.

He joined the New York Giants in 1950, and in 1951 hit 20 home runs for the team as a 20-year-old.

After the 1951 season Mays was drafted into the US Army to serve in the Korean War.

After missing the 1952 and 1953 seasons due to his military service, he returned in 1954 to earn his first MVP award.

After the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco in 1954, he helped the team defeat Cleveland in the World Series.

The over-the-shoulder catch he made during the game helped the team cinch the win with a score of 5-2 after 10 innings.

In 1972 he was traded to the New York Mets at the age of 41 where he played for two more seasons before retiring.

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