Willie Mays dies at 93: Tributes pour in for legendary ‘Say Hey Kid’

Willie Mays, a Hall of Fame baseball player, died on Tuesday, June 18. He was 93 years old.

Mays passed away peacefully this afternoon, according to the San Francisco Giants. There was no known illness that Mays was dealing with prior to his death.

The Hall of Famer spent 21 years with the Giants from 1951 to 1972. He played in New York before the franchise moved to San Francisco, then finished his career with the New York Mets at age 42.

Before debuting in the MLB, the slugger played 13 games for the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro Leagues as a 17-year-old.

MLB will be returning to Rickwood Field, where Mays and the Barons had played, for a game in celebration of Juneteenth this week. 

The “Say Hey Kid” is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player who ever lived, and his stats certainly back up that claim. Mays finished his career with a .301/.384/.557 slash line, 3,293 hits, 660 home runs and 339 stolen bases. His home run tally ranked third behind Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth in MLB history at the time of his retirement, and he’s since been passed by Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and his godson, Barry Bonds.

MORE: Why Willie Mays was called the ‘Say Hey Kid’

Mays’ list of accolades covers as much ground as the legend did in the outfield. He won NL Rookie of the Year in 1951 before joining the U.S. Army and serving in the Korean War.

As a result, he missed a portion of the 1952 season and all of the 1953 season before returning to lead the Giants to a World Series victory over the Indians in 1954. He led the league in batting (.345) and won NL MVP that same year, and he took home MVP honors again in 1965. He led the league in homers four times, turning in two 50-homer seasons in 1955 and 1965. He also led the league in steals four times, triples three times, runs twice, OBP twice and SLG five times. 

MORE: Willie Mays’ best career highlights

While it’s clear Mays could do it all at the plate, he did just as much in the field, earning 12 gold gloves. He also made the All-Star game 24 times (including twice apiece in 1959-62 when the league named All-Stars at midseason and again at the end of the year), taking home MVP honors twice.

He also won the inaugural Roberto Clemente Award in 1971, given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team.” To top things off, Mays was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 with 94.7 percent of the vote and earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2015.

Mays was about more than the stats, though. He simply exuded positivity and everything so many people love about the game of baseball, as the tributes that poured in upon news of his passing indicate. From playing stickball with kids in Harlem to his patented “basket catch” to the song “Say Hey (The Willie Mays song),” Mays was a true American icon. 

MORE: Willie Mays’ career stats and accolades

MLB, sports media mourn Willie Mays’ passing

The sports media took to social media to mourn the loss of one of the most prominent players in sports history.


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