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Baseball Legend Willie Mays Dies at 93

Willie Mays, the Hall of Fame centerfielder celebrated for his extraordinary all-around skills, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 93, according to Major League Baseball. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Mays died of heart failure.


Mays’s storied career spanned 23 seasons from 1951 to 1973, during which he played for the New York Giants, San Francisco Giants, and New York Mets.


Mays was renowned as the epitome of a “five-tool player,” excelling in hitting for average, hitting for power, fielding, throwing, and baserunning. However, his sheer talent was only part of his allure. Mays played with a palpable passion that resonated even with fans in the cheapest seats. He was a familiar sight playing stickball with children on the streets of Harlem, near the Polo Grounds where he began his career.


In the major leagues, fans were thrilled by Mays’s speed and determination, often witnessing him sprint so vigorously that his hat would fly off as he stole bases or chased down deep fly balls. His iconic catch during the 1954 World Series, where he sprinted 460 feet to catch a fly ball with his back to the infield, is famously known as “The Catch.”


“He could do everything and do it better than anyone else, with a joyous grace,” wrote Arthur Daley, a sports columnist for The New York Times.

Nicknamed “The Say Hey Kid” for his customary greeting, Mays was ranked second on The Sporting News’ 1998 list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, trailing only Babe Ruth and ahead of Ty Cobb. According to, he ranks fifth all-time in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a metric that measures a player’s overall value, behind Ruth, pitchers Walter Johnson and Cy Young, and his godson Barry Bonds.

Mays was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility. Over his career, he won two MVP awards and was selected for the All-Star team 24 times, a record shared with Hank Aaron and Stan Musial. He retired with 660 home runs, placing him third on the all-time list at the time, behind Aaron (755) and Ruth (714). He was also the first player to hit 300 home runs and steal 300 bases.

Born Willie Howard Mays Jr. on May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama, during the segregation era, Mays was inspired to play baseball by his father and an uncle. “My uncle would say every day, ‘You’re going to be a baseball player. You’re going to be a baseball player, and we’re gonna see to that,'” Mays once recalled. By the age of 15, he was playing professional ball with the Birmingham Black Barons.

Mays joined the New York Giants in 1951, four years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. Despite a slow start, he quickly found his stride, winning Rookie of the Year with a .274 average and helping the Giants clinch the pennant with Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”

After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Mays returned to the Giants in 1954 and led them to a World Series victory, highlighted by his unforgettable catch.

When the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, Mays struggled to win the same level of adoration he had in New York, with fans favoring new stars like Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey. Despite the challenges posed by the Giants’ new home at windy Candlestick Park, Mays continued to display extraordinary talent, leading the Giants to the World Series in 1962.

By the late 1960s, Mays’s career began to wind down. He was traded to the New York Mets in 1972, making a final World Series appearance in 1973 before retiring.

In his book “Willie’s Time,” baseball writer and historian Charles Einstein encapsulated Mays’s legacy: “The lights were hot and the cameras rolled, and you knew Willie was there because you heard that laugh. Came The Automatic Question: ‘Who was the greatest player you ever saw?’ His answer was prompt: ‘I thought I was.’ There was merriment in his eyes as he looked around the room. ‘I hope I didn’t say that wrong.'”


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