Greek Giant

“I’ll always be part of San Francisco, and San Francisco will always be part of me.”

-Willie Mays

When I read the news of Willie Mays’s passing I did not know what to write as a headline. How can you summmarize the death of a baseball, indeed a national, if not global icon in a pithy way on a baseball blog?

Instead of writing a long obituary I am going to publish links to several tributes in other publications. I invite everyone to share their favorite Willie Mays stories in the comments below. For me, well, suffice it to say that even though I never saw him play I watched a life’s worth of Willie Mays Highlights and read quite a bit about the Say Hey Kid and what I found most moving is the quality of the man’s character. His personal and public life were exemplary, more so even than his baseball career. Now, in basically everyone’s book, Willie Mays epitomized baseball. To say he was “the greatest baseball player who ever lived” might even be an understatement. He was much more than that when you consider all the roadblocks he had to overcome and the challenges he faced in mid-twentieth century USA. Then consider his baseball accomplishments where he played half his games at Candlestick in San Francisco and the others at the Polo Grounds that had various challenges for hitters. Then remember he served in the army in 1952 and 1953 and consider how many more homers and hits he would have had!

At the time of his Hall of Fame Induction where Mays received 94.7 % of thevotes (hose responsible for the 5.3% should be banned from baseball for life) Mays was asked who the greatest ballplayer was and he answered “Joe Dimaggio, but I also though I was pretty good.”

“I fell in love with baseball because of Willie, plain and simple. My childhood was defined by going to Candlestick with my dad, watching Willie patrol centerfield with grace and the ultimate athleticism. Over the past 30 years, working with Willie, and seeing firsthand his zest for life and unbridled passion for giving to young players and kids, has been one of the joys of my life.”

Giants President, Larry Baer

The Tributes

“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.”

-Commissioner Rob Manfred

“He did so many remarkable things, it actually became routine. We were so spoiled. He’d make plays that people would yell and talk about for months. We saw those plays every day, so it was no big deal. Hitting four home runs in one game probably was the least of the spectacular things he did.”

Here is the official MLB Tribute.

Here are more links to visit.

Here is the official tribute published by the Giants and narrated by Jon Miller