Baseball Mourns the Loss of Willie Mays at 93

Baseball Mourns the Loss of Willie Mays at 93

One of the greatest baseball players ever has died.

Willie Mays, famously known as the "Say Hey Kid," has passed away at the age of 93 from heart failure, according to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. Shea was a longtime friend of Mays, having recently authored the book "24: Life Stories and Lessons from the Say Hey Kid," published in 2020.

Mays, who was the oldest living Hall of Famer, was considered a true ambassador of the game. When highlights of Mays are shown, they always include his famous catch in the 1954 World Series, where he robbed Vic Wertz of what would have easily been a home run in any other ballpark besides the cavernous Polo Grounds. Then, that's usually followed by one of Mays' patented swings of the bat, followed by his cap or helmet flying off his head as he rounded first base, one of his basket catches, and usually a slide of him at second or at home plate.

My favorite highlight of Mays isn't the one from 1954 but from April 11, 1970. Mays robbed Bobby Tolan of extra bases as he climbed over the wall in right center, crashing into Bobby Bonds. The reason footage of that catch exists is because it was the NBC Game of the Week.

Mays, in recent years, hadn't come to the China Basin ballpark as much as he used to in the first decade of the yard that bears his famous number 24 as part of the address. When he did make an appearance, it was equivalent to that of royalty, like the Queen of England. Mays wasn't always the most jovial, though, and I myself didn't have an easy time trying to ask him a question when I once tried to interview him with a group of other reporters in the Giants' final season at Candlestick in 1999.

But I won't forget a few years later, circa 2003, when the Cubs came to town with fellow Hall of Famer Ernie Banks. Banks had as much effervescence to his personality as did Mays. And when Banks addressed a roomful of reporters, he said, "You've got a beautiful ballpark, the sun is shining, so let's play two!" Mays was already in the interview room and wasn't in the best mood, and Banks noticed. He playfully teased Mays, and one thing about Mays, he always knew how to perform in front of an audience. Mays and Banks then bantered with each other for the next few minutes, much to the delight of everyone.

Mays will be remembered for the way in which he played the game with his distinctive flair. In fact, the only player in recent memory who had a Mays-like swing was Yoenis Cespedes. But nobody evoked the kind of joy and fun that Mays did on a baseball field. Baseball has been around for a very long time, but it's only been since the early 1990s that every game was televised by the home or road team.

In fact, there aren't any full games of Mays' playing days aside from the 1973 World Series when Mays was on the Mets vs. the Athletics when Oakland won the second of its three consecutive World titles. Of the games I've found on YouTube, the 1968 All-Star Game features a postgame interview with former Dodger Pee Wee Reese, who became an analyst for NBC Sports after he retired. The 1971 Midsummer Classic features Mays in the leadoff spot batting against the late Vida Blue.

Given that the San Francisco Giants are one of the oldest and most storied franchises in Major League Baseball, in addition to the ballpark address and the statue, Mays also has Cable Car #24 in his honor. Mays' legacy will live on for the next 100 years and beyond.

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