WILLIE MAYS,
1931-2024

Willie Mays, the personification of perfection on the ballfield, died Tuesday (6/18) at the age of 93, one day before he was to be honored at a Negro League tribute in Alabama. He played for the Birmingham Black Barons from 1947 to 1950.

The MLB legend hit 660 home runs over a career that spanned 1951-1973 with the New York and San Francisco Giants and New York Mets and was long regarded as baseball's greatest living player.

Mays played an inadvertent role in popular-music history thanks to the jump blues combo The Treniers, led by identical twins Cliff and Claude Trenier, who were among the first to introduce the word “rock” in their material. In 1955 they released “Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song)” as a tribute to Mays, who'd had a spectacular season the year before (we note the involvement of one Quincy Jones on the record). After losing two prime seasons to Army duty, Mays entered the baseball history books in 1954 with The Catch and a World Series victory for the Giants four years before they moved to the Bay Area.

Later in life, Mays was saluted in such songs as John Fogerty's "Centerfield" and Chuck D's "The Amazing Willie Mays."

Mays became the youngest Black player in MLB history when he joined the Giants right after his 20th birthday, in 1951, four years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

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