Hall of Fame CF Willie Mays dies at 93

Field Level Media

June 19, 2024 at 2:06 am.

Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays, a two-time MVP and 12-time Gold Glove Award winner, died on Tuesday. He was 93.

No cause of death was announced.

“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 San Francisco Giants said in a statement.

The Giants also released a statement on behalf of Mays’ son, Michael.

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

Mays was a 24-time All-Star who spent parts of 21 seasons with the Giants — when they were in New York and San Francisco. He then spent parts of two seasons with the New York Mets. His 12 Gold Gloves are tied for the most by an outfielder, with Roberto Clemente also sharing the record.

“Today we have lost a true legend,” Giants chairman Greg Johnson said in a statement. “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.”

Prior to his time in the majors, Mays spent a year with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League. He sat out the 1953 season due to military service in the Korean War.

“All of Major League Baseball is in mourning today as we are gathered at the very ballpark where a career and a legacy like no other began,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, issued from Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., ahead of Thursday’s Negro Leagues tribute game. “Willie Mays took his all-around brilliance from the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League to the historic Giants franchise.

“From coast to coast in New York and San Francisco, Willie inspired generations of players and fans as the game grew and truly earned its place as our National Pastime.”

Mays had told the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week that he would not be able to get to Birmingham for the game, which will pit the St. Louis Cardinals against the Giants.

“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,” Mays said in a statement to the Chronicle on Monday. “I wanted to thank Major League Baseball, the Giants, the Cardinals and all the fans who’ll be at Rickwood or watching the game.

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

Considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Mays is also responsible for one of the greatest catches in big-league history.

In the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, the Cleveland Indians’ Vic Wertz hit a fly ball to deep center with a pair of runners on base in a tie game. With his back turned to the infield, Mays ran toward the center field wall at the Polo Grounds and made an incredible over-the-shoulder basket catch.

Making the feat even more impressive was the fact that Mays wasted no time getting the ball into the infield, preventing a run from scoring. The Giants went on to prevail 5-2 in 10 innings, and they eventually took the series 4-0.

It marked Mays’ only World Series title.

In 3,005 career games, Mays posted a .301 batting average to go along with 660 home runs and 1,909 RBIs. He collected 3,293 hits, 2,068 runs and 339 stolen bases and was selected the National League Rookie of the Year in 1951.

“Willie Mays was one of the greatest to ever play the game. Willie ended his Hall of Fame career in Queens and was a key piece to the 1973 NL championship team,” Mets owner Steve Cohen and his wife, Alex, said in a statement. “Mays played with a style and grace like no one else. … On behalf of our entire organization, we send our thoughts and prayers to Willie’s family and friends.”