Goodbye, Willie Mays | God's World News
Goodbye, Willie Mays
News Shorts
Posted: June 19, 2024
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    Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. (AP)
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    Willie Mays makes “The Catch” in the 1954 baseball World Series in New York. (AP)
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    Willie Mays smiles before a game between the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants in 2016. (AP/Ben Margot)
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    Willie Mays signs autographs in Oakland, California, in March 1952. (AP)
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This week, the world said goodbye to one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Willie Mays, who played for the San Francisco Giants, died on June 18. He was 93.

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

Mr. Mays started his professional baseball career in the Negro Leagues in 1948. (During that time, black Americans were barred from major and minor leagues. So black players played on separate teams.) In 1951, he joined the Giants. (The team was then located in New York City.) Eventually, he became baseball’s oldest living Hall of Famer.

People remember Mr. Mays as a great hitter, outfielder, and thrower. And Mr. Mays did all those things with joy. He launched homeruns. He dashed around bases. He chased fly balls. His hat flew off his head. Mr. Mays hit 660 home runs in his career.

People still talk about the time he sprinted and caught the ball in the 1954 World Series. Mr. Mays raced toward the wall, his back to home plate. He reached out with his glove and caught the ball. What followed was also extraordinary. Mr. Mays managed to turn around while still moving forward and heave the ball to the infield. That stopped his opponent from scoring. “The Catch” was seen and heard by millions through radio and TV (which was new back then).

“When I played ball, I tried to make sure everybody enjoyed what I was doing,” Mr. Mays told NPR in 2010. “I made the clubhouse guy fit me a cap that when I ran, the wind gets up in the bottom and it flies right off. People love that kind of stuff.”

Mr. Mays had a nickname: “The Say Hey Kid.” The name referred to the spirited way Mr. Mays greeted his teammates.

When living in Manhattan, New York, Mr. Mays earned the love of many young fans. How? By playing stickball with them in their neighborhoods! (Stickball is a street sport similar to baseball.)

“I used to have maybe 10 kids come to my window,” he said in 2011. “Every morning, they’d come at nine o’clock. . . . They’d give me a chance to go shower. They’d give me a chance to eat breakfast. But I had to be out there at 9:30, because that’s when they wanted to play.”

Mr. Mays was born in Westfield, Alabama, in 1931. His dad was a baseball player and wanted Willie to be one too. Young Willie was a great athlete. His childhood friends thought basketball, not baseball, was his best sport.

Most of the time, Willie Mays was happy simply being on the field, especially when the Sun went down.

“You’re out there by yourself in center field,” he said. “And I just felt that it was such a beautiful game that I just wanted to play it forever.”

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. — Proverbs 20:29