Reaction to the death of Willie Mays, 'the godfather of center fielders' (2024)

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Reaction from the sports world and beyond to the death of baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays. He died Tuesday at age 93, Mays’ family and the San Francisco Giants jointly announced. Mays’ electrifying combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest and most beloved players.


“I am beyond devastated and overcome with emotion. I have no words to describe what you mean to me — you helped shape me to be who I am today. Thank you for being my Godfather and always being there. Give my dad a big hug for me. Rest in peace Willie. I love you forever. #SayHey” — Former Giants slugger and Mays’ godson, Barry Bonds.


“He’s the godfather of center fielders. When you think about playing center field and you’re a person of color, that’s who they compare you to. For him to pull me aside and spend all the time he did with me meant a lot.” — Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.


“Willie Mays wasn’t just a singular athlete, blessed with an unmatched combination of grace, skill and power. He was also a wonderfully warm and generous person - and an inspiration to an entire generation. I’m lucky to have spent time with him over the years, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family.” — Former President Barack Obama.


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“He was a guy I talked to a lot, and we talked baseball. He had a little office right by mine up there. And so I was fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with that man. Of course, what a legend he is, could be the best, the greatest player of all time, that’s how good he was.” — Former San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy.


“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.” — MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.


“I was a big Willie Mays fan, what he meant to the game, what he meant to California, all the Giants fans out there and especially me growing up. You wanted to play like Willie and make those catches that he did. The numbers he put up on the field and what he did are impressive, but him as a person and him as a human being is even bigger. He was bigger than baseball. He was something special and the baseball world is definitely going to be missing a great one.” — New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, who grew up in Northern California.


“RIP Willie Mays. You changed the game forever and inspired kids like me to chase our dream. Thank you for everything that you did on and off the field. Always in our hearts.” — Former pitcher CC Sabathia.


“I’m devastated to hear about the passing of the legendary Hall of Famer Willie Mays, one of the main reasons I fell in love with baseball. Cookie and I are praying for his family, friends, and fans during this difficult time.” — NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.


“The great Willie Mays has passed away. It was a privilege to know him. We were both honored by @MLB in 2010 with the Beacon Award, given to civil rights pioneers. He was a such a kind soul, who gifted my brother Randy a new glove and a television during his rookie year with the @SFGiants. My deepest condolences to his family. He will be missed.” — Tennis legend Billie Jean King.


“Willie Mays’ passion for the game and incredible talent made him the embodiment of baseball for millions of fans and one of the most beloved players in history. More than a half century after his playing days, he remained an American treasure and a baseball icon synonymous with love of the game. His ever-present smile and joyous presence radiated throughout Cooperstown, and we will forever cherish his legacy. For teammates, opponents and friends, Willie Mays exemplified excellence.” — Baseball Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark.


“Willie ended his Hall of Fame career in Queens and was a key piece to the 1973 NL championship team. Mays played with a style and grace like no one else. Alex and I were thrilled to honor a previous promise from Joan Payson to retire his iconic #24 as a member of the Mets in 2022. On behalf of our entire organization, we send our thoughts and prayers to Willie’s family and friends.” — Mets owners Steve and Alex Cohen.


“From his professional debut with the Birmingham Black Barons at age 17 through his 24 All-Star Games to his Hall of Fame induction in 1979, Willie’s skill on the field and impact off it elevated him to a stature that was larger than life.” — MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark.


“The great Willie Mays has passed away. Had the honor of talking with him several times. He loved that we mentioned his ’54 World Series catch in City Slickers. The man who hit the ball and the “ Giant” who caught it signed this ball. RIP #24.. a thrill to watch you play.” — Actor Billy Crystal.


“Best player I’ve ever seen. Greatest player. I fortunately grew up in the Bay Area during Mays’ prime, and he was a five-tool player, an extraordinarily good five-tool player. You’d go to a game and he would do something. Whether it would be a great catch, a great throw, a stolen base, hit a home run or he’d do them all. He was just that kind of player. ... What always came off was that he was the ‘Say Hey Kid.’ He had that ebullient personality. Infectious and genuine, and I got to tell him he was the greatest player I ever saw.” — Former player Keith Hernandez.



Reaction to the death of Willie Mays, 'the godfather of center fielders' (2024)


Who was the man who struck out Willie Mays? ›

Bill Singer of the Dodgers, who was just out of kindergarten when Mays was playing center field for the New York Giants in the 1951 World Series, did it three times in one night. Then, a few weeks later, he struck out Mays in the first inning, and suddenly Willie left the game complaining of a cold.

How many stolen bases did Willie Mays have? ›

Mays, of course, exceeded some of those plateaus rather easily, finishing with 3,283 hits, 660 homers and 338 steals.

What did Willie Mays do after baseball? ›

He led the league in home runs in 1955, 1962, and 1964–65, won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves (1957–68), and was named an All-Star in 20 of his 22 seasons. After retiring as a player, Mays was a part-time coach and did public relations work for the Mets.

How many at bats did it take for Willie Mays to get his first hit? ›

Mays appeared in his first major league game on May 25 against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shibe Park, batting third. He had no hits in his first 12 at bats in the major leagues, but in his 13th on May 28, he hit a home run off Warren Spahn over the left-field roof of the Polo Grounds.

Who was better Babe Ruth or Willie Mays? ›

Posnanski, whose 2021 best selling book “The Baseball 100” ranked the game's greatest players, ranked Mays as No. 1 and Ruth as No. 2. There is a term in baseball to describe Mays' rare kind of greatness — “a five-tool player,” one who can hit for average, hit for power, field, throw and run.

How many people did Willie Mays throw out? ›

RankPlayer (2023 POs)Putouts as an outfielder
National League
1Willie Mays*7,095
2Tris Speaker*0
3Rickey Henderson*769
69 more rows

Which player holds the record for most stolen bases in MLB history? ›

Rickey Henderson

What was Willie Mays famous quote? ›

In order to excel, you must be completely dedicated to your chosen sport. You must also be prepared to work hard and be willing to accept constructive criticism. Without one-hundred percent dedication, you won't be able to do this.

What current MLB player has the most stolen bases? ›

Starling Marte has the most career stolen bases by an active player, with 350 steals.
1S. Marte2,381
2J. Altuve3,304
3T. Turner2,069
4J. Ramírez2,558
11 more rows

What was Willie Mays highest salary? ›

Mays became the highest-paid baseball player in the 1963 season, earning $105,000. By 1972, his salary was approximately $160,000 per year. His trade to the New York Mets came with a $175,000 annual salary for the rest of his playing career as well as $50,000 per year to coach once he retired.

Did Willie Mays wear batting gloves? ›

To respond to that complaint, Major League Baseball should put together a video showing highlights from the careers of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Henry Aaron. They combined for 2,472 regular-season career home runs without wearing batting gloves.

Why was Willie Mays called Buck? ›

His friends from school in Birmingham called him "Buck" while he was playing in the Negro Leagues as a 17-year-old. That nickname followed him to the Barons as a rookie in 1948.

How many gold gloves does Willie Mays have? ›

Center field: Willie Mays (12)

Those plays earned him a dozen Gold Glove Awards over his 22-year Hall of Fame career, all in succession from 1957-68. Ironically, all were won after Mays made one of the most famous catches in MLB history -- “The Catch” against the Indians' Vic Wertz in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series.

How many times did Willie Mays strikeout? ›

Willie Mays struck out 1,526 times in his career.
1W. Mays.274
2W. Mays.236
3W. Mays.345
4W. Mays.319
10 more rows

Why is Willie Mays called the say hey kid? ›

New York Journal American sportswriter Barney Kremenko said that in Mays' rookie season, the reticent Mays "would blurt 'Say who,' 'Say what,' 'Say where,' 'Say hey.

Why did they call Willie Mays the say "Hey kid"? ›

Mays began his career with the New York Giants in 1951, four years after Jackie Robinson played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He became known as the “Say Hey Kid” because of his youth, exuberant style of play and habit of greeting people with the phrase, “Say Hey.”

Who did Carl Mays play for? ›

In a 15-year career with the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Giants, Mays compiled a 207–126 record with 29 shutouts, 862 strikeouts and a 2.92 earned run average when the league average was 3.48. He won twenty or more games five times.

Who did the Giants trade Willie Mays for? ›

At the time of the trade, Mays was 41 years old, and it was clear that his legendary career was nearing its end. Wanting to ensure him of his baseball future, the Giants made the move, parting ways with their franchise icon in exchange for minor league pitcher Charlie Williams and $50,000.

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