Mays, the oldest living baseball Hall of Fame, took a victory lap around Oracle Park before the Giants greet the San Diego Padres, riding a choice white and turquoise 1956 Oldsmobile convertible and waving his cap in front of an enthusiastic crowd.
The field had a massive grass engraving in Mays’ central field in its backswing with the words “SAY HEY 90” beside it.
“When you think of the name ‘Willie Mays’ it’s almost like some type of mythological name that has the same feeling as a ‘Babe Ruth’ or a ‘Lou Gehrig’, you know? Said Giants wide receiver Buster Posey, who has developed a special kinship with Mays since his San Francisco debut in 2009.
“All of us who have been here for a while have spent quite a bit of time with him, and he always enjoys talking about the game. He wants to try to get to know the guys who are on the pitch. And, you know, unfortunately, we haven’t seen it for a while in the last couple of years. But when he’s there, it’s usually quite entertaining. “
Considering the pandemic and last year’s shortened MLB season, this was Mays’ first visit to the Giants yard since 2019.
Mays’ career in the major leagues spanned from 1951 to 1973 (with a one-year hiatus for military service in 1953) for the New York and San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets. When he retired, his 660 homers ranked third in big league history; he now ranks sixth behind his godson Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Ruth, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols.
On Friday night, highlights of his career – including footage of his iconic basket catch in the 1954 World Series opener at Polo Grounds – were played on the stadium’s video panel ahead of the first pitch.
Both teams stood atop their respective shelters to greet Mays as he drove by during the pre-match ceremony.
A live video stream showing Bonds helping Mays cut a birthday cake was shown on the video board after the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Mays after round three.
From athletes and musical artists to government officials, recorded birthday wishes from a multitude of Mays friends and admirers were also played on the video board throughout the game. Former giants, which included Bonds, Dusty Baker, Orlando Cepeda, Jeffrey Leonard, Will Clark and Dave Dravecky, but many others in baseball sent birthday greetings, including Derek Jeter, Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. , Vin Scully, former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and current Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Other famous names to salute Mays included Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady; former NFL stars Ronnie Lott and Steve Young; rappers Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg; hockey legend Wayne Gretzky; Magic Johnson, NBA Hall of Fame member; Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors; sports broadcasters Robin Roberts and Bob Costas; Gavin Newsom, Governor of California; former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown; current Mayor London Breed; and former President George W. Bush.
“When someone is like one of the top two or three players of any sport in the history of the sport, it’s hard not to have an impact on current players,” the manager said. of the Giants, Gabe Kapler. “I just don’t think we’re so exposed to the greats of all time. And to great human beings of all time. So for these reasons I think he resonates with current players. “
Posey added, “I mean, honestly, the reason people still talk about him today is just because he was an amazing baseball player and how long he played and, you know, his. achievements as a baseball player will stand the test forever. of time. ”