Alabama native, baseball legend Willie Mays dies at age 93

Published 8:53 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Alabama native son and Major League Baseball legend Willie Mays died Tuesday. He was 93.

Mays was born in 1931 in Westfield, Alabama.

Mays played baseball at an early age and by the time he was 15, he was already playing for Birmingham’s Black Barons in the Negro Leagues.

It didn’t take long for the Major League scouts to take notice of Mays. Although Jackie Robinson had already officially broken baseball’s segregated past, only the New York Giants were willing to sign Mays, penning a deal with him in 1950.

For many, Mays was considered, perhaps, among the greatest baseball players who ever played.

Ironically, in two days, Major League teams the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals are set to play at Rickwood Field in Birmingham as a celebration of Mays’ career and other great players of the Negro Leagues.

“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,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday. “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.”

Mays’ family said the baseball great died peacefully surrounded by family.

Mays hit 600 home runs and was awarded 12 Gold Glove awards in his career.

“Today we have lost a true legend,” Giants chairman Greg Johnson said. “In the pantheon of baseball greats, Willie Mays’ combination of tremendous talent, keen intellect, showmanship, and boundless joy set him apart. A 24-time All-Star, the Say Hey Kid is the ultimate Forever Giant. He had a profound influence not only on the game of baseball, but on the fabric of America. He was an inspiration and a hero who will be forever remembered and deeply missed.”