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San Francisco Giants, Entire Baseball Community Mourns the Loss of Willie Mays

Willie Mays, the iconic Hall of Fame center fielder who is known as the greatest all-around baseball player of all time, died Tuesday, the San Francisco Giants announced. (File)

The San Francisco Giants Issued the Following Statement on Behalf of Willie Mays’ Family and the Organization:

“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.”

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

“Today we have lost a true legend”, said Giants Chairman Greg Johnson. “In the pantheon of baseball greats, Willie Mays’ combination of tremendous talent, keen intellect, showmanship, and boundless joy set him apart. A 24-time All-Star, the Say Hey Kid is the ultimate Forever Giant. 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.”

“I fell in love with baseball because of Willie, plain and simple,” said Giants President and Chief Executive Officer Larry Baer. “My childhood was defined by going to Candlestick with my dad, watching Willie patrol centerfield with grace and the ultimate athleticism. Over the past 30 years, working with Willie, and seeing firsthand his zest for life and unbridled passion for giving to young players and kids, has been one of the joys of my life.”

At the age of 16, Willie Mays joined the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League in 1948, playing only on Sunday during the school year. The New York Giants purchased his contract in 1950 when he graduated from Fairfield Industrial High School, and after two seasons in the minor leagues he was in center field at the Polo Grounds in 1951 and was named the NL Rookie of the Year at the end of that season.

He spent most of 1952 and all of 1953 in the Army, but in 1954, Mays led the league with a .345 batting average and 13 triples while hitting 41 home runs and driving in 110 runs. The Giants again won the pennant and in the World Series, faced the Cleveland Indians – winners of an AL-record 111 games. With Game 1 tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth, runners on first and second, and no outs, Vic Wertz hit a towering drive that would have been a home run in most parks. Mays, playing shallow, took off and ran with his back to the ball, caught it over the shoulder an estimated 460 feet from the plate, turned, and fired. Larry Doby, who had to turn back and tag up at second base, was forced to stop at third. The Giants went on to win the game and sweep the Series. “The Catch” is considered by many to be one of the greatest defensive plays in history.

Mays went on to play 21 seasons with the Giants and finished up with the Mets in 1972 and 1973. He hit over .300 10 times, en route to a career .301 mark, and finished with 3,293 hits.

Willie Mays died Tuesday, June 18 the San Francisco Giants announced. (File)

During his 23-year Major League playing career, Mays was named Most Valuable Player twice, first as a New York Giant (1954) and then as a San Francisco Giant (1965). He holds the all-time record for putouts by an outfielder, with a career total of 7,095. He won 12 Gold Gloves in center field and appeared in 24 All-Star games. He led the league in home runs four times, stolen bases four times, slugging percentage five times, total bases three times and triples three times. He was third on the all-time home run list with 660 until 2003 when Barry Bonds, passed him.

The “Say Hey Kid” was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, the first year of his eligibility (the ninth player to make it on his first try). Mays’ uniform number, 24, has been retired by the Giants, as he remains the franchise leader in games played (2,857), at-bats (10,477), runs (2,011), hits (3,187), doubles (504), home runs (646), total bases (5,907) and extra base hits (1,289). He was named team captain of the Giants prior to the 1961 season by manager Alvin Dark.

The Westfield, Alabama, native was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama in 2015. Mays has also received numerous honors as one of the premier athletes of the past 100 years. The Sporting News ranked him second only to Babe Ruth among the 100 greatest baseball players of the 20th century. ESPN listed him as eighth in their ranking of the top 50 athletes of the century.

In 2003, former Governor Gray Davis appointed Willie Mays to the State Board of Directors of the California African American Museum. He spent part of his 85th birthday aboard cable car No. 24, which was dedicated to him.

Mays was the spokesperson for The Institute on Aging in San Francisco as well as the President and CEO of the Say Hey Foundation, supporting underprivileged youth. He also was a member of the Concordia Club. He received honorary degrees from Dartmouth, Miles College, Ohio State University, San Francisco State and Yale University and had spent the past 36 years in the Giants front office.

Former Giants President and Managing General Partner Peter Magowan announced in 1997 that the front entrance of the club’s new ballpark (Oracle Park) would feature a world-class statue of Mays and the official address of the park would be 24 Willie Mays Plaza.

In January of 2011, just a few months after the San Francisco Giants won their first ever World Series Championship, Mays returned to his baseball roots and accompanied the Trophy to New York where he met with students at P.S. 48, located just feet from the former site of the Polo Grounds where he established himself as the greatest all-around player to ever play the game. During that same trip, he also met with members of the New York Giants Preservation Society and Historical Society.

A public celebration of Willie’s life will be announced at a later date. Fans who wish to offer their condolences may send letters to the Mays family care of San Francisco Giants, attention Forever 24, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107.