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Giants’ all-time great, Willie Mays, dead at 93

Willie Mays baseball card
Ted Van Pelt
Flickr / Creative Commons
Willie Mays baseball card

News of the death of Willie Mays came late Tuesday afternoon in a statement released earlier by the Giants.

Mays’ son, Michael, said his father passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones. He added that the love of loyal fans was his father’s lifeblood.

A 24-time All-Star, Mays was born in Birmingham, Alabama, during the height of Jim Crow. As a 17-year-old, Mays broke into professional baseball with the Birmingham Black Barons of the old Negro Leagues in 1948. The New York Giants purchased his contract two years later. He made his major league debut in 1951, becoming an immediate star.

Mays played six seasons in New York, moving with the team to San Francisco in 1958. Playing first in old Seals Stadium and then at Candlestick Park.

Longtime local sports broadcaster Rich Walcoff had this to say about Mays.

"The first African American sports hero San Francisco ever embraced. And they didn't do it, initially, willingly, lovingly. He was almost prevented from buying a home in Forest Hills in San Francisco in 1958. Thankfully, the was overcome. And just an amazing talent, charismatic, telegenic, dynamic in every way. The first icon San Francisco ever embraced. And in 1958, in that parade to welcome the Giants from New York into San Francisco, that was a real turning point for Bay Area sports fans to embrace the once New York Giants and made Willie Mays their favorite son."

Mays played 21 of his 22 seasons with the Giants before finishing his career in New York with the Mets in 1973.

Known for his crowd pleasing playing style, Mays became major league baseball’s first five-tool player – being able to hit for power, hit for average, field his position, throw and run the basepaths.

He is also remembered for being the author of perhaps baseball’s most iconic moment, making a running catch, over his shoulder in deep center field at New York’s Polo Grounds in the 1954 World Series.

Mays retired as one of the all-time greatest home run hitters, He also won two Most Valuable Player awards and a dozen Golden Glove awards. After retirement, Mays remained a fixture with the Giants, watching games from his box at Oracle Park and mixing freely with Giants players in the clubhouse.

Sunni M. Khalid is a veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, having worked in print, radio, television, and web journalism.