Baseball legend Willie Mays passes away at 93

Hall of Famer Willie Mays, one of the greatest players in Major League Baseball history, passed away on Tuesday.

Mays made his MLB debut with the then New York Giants in 1951, and was named the MLB Rookie of the Year after hitting 20 home runs that season, helping the Giants to their first pennant in 14 years. Mays won his first MVP Award in 1954 — after missing the 1953 season due to military service after he was drafted by the U.S. Army during the Korean War — and was a part of the Giants team that won the 1954 World Series.

In Game 1 of that World Series against the Cleveland Indians, Mays delivered a play known as “The Catch,” an over-the-shoulder grab of a long drive off the bat of Vic Wertz in the eighth inning.

The play, considered one of the greatest in baseball history, kept the game tied at 2-2:

The Giants would win in extra innings on their way to a sweep of Cleveland.

The “Say Hey Kid” won his second MVP Award over a decade later, when he slashed .317/.398/.645 for the Giants in the 1965 season, hitting a career-best 52 home runs.

Mays played over 20 seasons in the major leagues, retiring from the game following the 1973 season. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first try in 1979, at the time becoming just the ninth player in baseball history to earn a spot on Cooperstown in their first year of eligibility.

Mays began his baseball career playing for the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues before he made the move to the Giants, and his passing comes just days before he was to be honored, along with the rest of the Negro League, in the MLB Game at Rickwood Field Thursday between the Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals. The game will be played at historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, which was the home field for the Black Barons.

Earlier this week, Mays released a statement saying that while he would not be traveling to Birmingham for the game, his “heart” would be with everyone in attendance.

“I’m not able to get to Birmingham this year but will follow the game back here in the Bay Area,” Mays said told the San Francisco Chronicle. “My heart will be with all of you who are honoring the Negro League ballplayers, who should always be remembered, including all my teammates on the Black Barons. I wanted to thank Major League Baseball, the Giants, the Cardinals and all the fans who’ll be at Rickwood or watching the game. It’ll be a special day, and I hope the kids will enjoy it and be inspired by it.”

Mays was 93 years old.

And a true legend of the game.

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