Willie Mays: Sports world reacts to death of ‘Say Hey Kid’

Willie Mays

The sports world reacted with sorrow after learning of the death of Hall of Fame baseball player Willie Mays on Tuesday. Tributes poured in from fans, baseball players, authors and broadcasters on social media.

Baseball’s “Say Hey Kid” was 93.

During his career, Mays was a two-time National League Most Valuable player who thrilled fans with his basket catch, his cap flying off as he ran the bases, and his powerful bat and throwing arm.

Mays had been the oldest living member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. During his career, he was a two-time National League Most Valuable Player and won a batting title. He hit 660 home runs, stroked 3,293 hits and drove in 1,909 runs. Mays earned 12 Gold Gloves and 24 All-Star Game berths.

Mays’ godson, Barry Bonds, wrote on Instagram that he was “beyond devastated and overcome with emotion.”

“I have no words to describe what you mean to me -- you helped shape me to be who I am today,” MLB’s all-time home run leader wrote. “Thank you for being my Godfather and always being there. Give my dad a hug for me. Rest in peace Willie, I love you forever. #SayHey.”

New York Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter called Mays “one of the best ever to play the game and even a better person.”

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge told that Mays’ death was “terrible, terrible news.”

“I was a big Willie Mays fan. What he meant to the game, what he meant to California, all the Giants fans out there, especially me growing up -- you wanted to play like Willie, and make those catches that he did,” Judge said. “The numbers he put up on the field and what he did are impressive, but him as a person, him as a human being, was even bigger. He was bigger than baseball, man.”

“My heart is on the floor,” Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. told MLB Network. “That’s the best way I can describe it. To hear the news today is devastating.”

Even Mays’ rivals acknowledged his greatness. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who battled Mays and the Giants from 1951 through 1972, tweeted that there were “so, so many great memories of him.”

Former pitcher C.C. Sabathia said that Mays changed the game and “inspired kids like me to chase our dream.”

“Thank you for everything that you did on and off the field,” Sabathia tweeted. “Always in our hearts.”

“We’re losing all of our legends. It goes to show you how long this game has been going on,” Angels manager Ron Washington told “We know he’s a superstar. Baseball will definitely miss him. In the San Francisco area, he was always visible, always available for anybody. We’re going to sorely miss him.”

“It was hard at first. I took my hat off and I was looking at the scoreboard and just thinking about him,” Giants pitcher Logan Webb told The Athletic. “I kind of looked at the umpire and I was like, ‘I think you need to stop the clock.’ I needed to take a moment to think about it and be prideful for the jersey I was wearing, the hat I was wearing, knowing Willie did the same.”

In addition to making the original announcement about Mays’ death, the San Francisco Giants called the iconic outfielder “the best there ever was.”

“He leaves us with a lasting reminder: to work hard and find joy in this great game, and this extraordinary life,” the team tweeted.

Mays’ death was announced at historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, where the Giants will face the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.

The game, billed as “MLB at Rickwood Field: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues,” will be the first regular-season MLB game played at the stadium, which opened on Aug. 18, 1910. That was nearly two years before Fenway Park opened in Boston in April 1912.

Mays had been expected to attend the game, but in a statement released on Monday, he said he would be remaining at home.

The crowd at the stadium stood and applauded in respect after Mays’ death was announced over the public address system.

Baseball columnist and author Joel Sherman tweeted that when he was 8 years old his father took him to an autograph session featuring Mays and New York Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle.

“Mantle had been his guy but he told me to take a picture with ‘The greatest player there has ever been,” Sherman tweeted. “My dad never wavered in that belief. RIP to the greatest player there has ever been.”

The best player I’ve ever seen,” former major leaguer-turned-broadcaster Keith Hernandez said. “The greatest player.

“You’d go to a game (and) he’d do something,” Hernandez said. “Whether it would be a great catch, a great throw, a stolen base, hit a home run -- or he’d do them all.

“He was just that good.”

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