Barack Obama joins others in paying tribute to baseball legend Willie Mays

 June 20, 2024

Baseball fans were saddened this week to learn that legendary player Willie Mays passed away on Tuesday at the age of 93.

Among those mourning Mays' death was former President Barack Obama, who called the center fielder "an inspiration."

Obama awarded Mays the Presidential Medal of Freedom

"Willie Mays wasn’t just a singular athlete, blessed with an unmatched combination of grace, skill and power," the former president wrote in a social media post.

"He was also a wonderfully warm and generous person - and an inspiration to an entire generation. I'm lucky to have spent time with him over the years, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family," Obama added.

The former president hosted Mays at the White House in 2015 where he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Biden says he "wanted to play centerfield because of Willie Mays"

President Joe Biden had words of praise for Mays in a statement of his own, saying, "Like so many others in my neighborhood and around the country, when I played Little League, I wanted to play centerfield because of Willie Mays."

"It was a rite of passage to practice his basket catches, daring steals, and command at the plate - only to be told by coaches to cut it out because no one can do what Willie Mays could do," Biden recalled.

The president hailed Mays as being "an original in so many ways" who would long be remembered for his "one of a kind legacy."

Biden also pointed out that Mays' achievements came at a time when African American athletes often faced barriers to success.

"He not only entertained, above all, he inspired millions of people of all races to help break through the color line of sports, and to break through the conscience of the Nation," the president stressed.

Mays' career spanned nearly a quarter century

"On this day, we remember Willie Mays as part of the long-line of Black patriots who have helped us see a better version of ourselves as Americans and as a Nation," Biden added.

According to HuffPost, Mays was known as the "Say Hey Kid" and spent much of his 22-year-long career playing in New York and San Francisco for the Giants.

During that time, he managed to accrue 660 home runs, 3,293 hits, 338 stolen bases, two MVP titles in the National League. What's more, Mays also went on to earn 12 Gold Gloves and helped the New York Giants pull off a World Series victory in 1954.

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