Major League Baseball remembers the life of Hall of Famer Willie Mays; a true giant of our National Pastime was 93

By Dan Hock

Willie Mays with the Mets in 1972. By Unknown author – Desert Sun, Public Domain, https

June 18, 2024


Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. issued the following statement today regarding the passing of Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who was 93:

“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. 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.

“Just as his career was ascending, Willie served his country in the U.S. Army in 1952 and 1953. As the 1954 NL MVP, he led the Giants to victory in the World Series, in which he made one of the most memorable plays ever with ‘The Catch’ in the deep center field of the Polo Grounds. All told, Willie was a two-time MVP, a 24-time All-Star, a 12-time Gold Glover, a selection as one of the game’s Greatest Living Players in 2015, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom later that year.

“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. 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.

“Thursday’s game at historic Rickwood Field was designed to be a celebration of Willie Mays and his peers. With sadness in our hearts, it will now also serve as a national remembrance of an American who will forever remain on the short list of the most impactful individuals our great game has ever known.”

Thursday’s MLB at Rickwood Field: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues on FOX will feature a pregame ceremony honoring the life of Willie Mays. The Birmingham Black Barons called Rickwood Field home from 1924 through 1960. As a teenager, Mays began his professional career with the Black Barons in 1948. Rickwood Field was the site of the final Negro League World Series game in October 1948, which saw Mays’ Black Barons fall to the Homestead Grays in five games.

In commemoration of “The Catch” as perhaps the most famous defensive play in the history of the Fall Classic, the World Series Most Valuable Player Award was named in Willie’s honor on the milestone’s anniversary on September 29, 2017.



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