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Late Hall of Famer Willie Mays Receives Final Military Honors for His US Army Service
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By Associated Press
Published 2 weeks ago on
July 9, 2024

A statue of Willie Mays in front of Oracle Park in San Francisco, California. (Shutterstock)

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SAN FRANCISCO — Willie Mays received final military honors for his time served in the U.S. Army during a special presentation of an American flag to son Michael and taps was sounded at a public memorial service Monday for the late Hall of Famer.

Memorial Service Highlights

Baseball dignitaries past and present, including godson and home run king Barry Bonds, sat on the field for remembrances and video highlights going back to Mays’ stickball days in the streets outside New York’s Polo Grounds.

The Hall of Fame “Say Hey Kid,” among the early Negro League stars who hit 660 career home runs despite spending 1952-54 in the Army during the Korean War, died June 18 at 93. The Army honored Mays in front of his family, friends, former teammates and executives and thousands of fans.

With a large 24 cutout representing his jersey number elevated on the infield dirt between first and second base in the San Francisco Giants’ waterfront ballpark, Bonds sat in the front row down the third-base line.

Notable Attendees

Some others in attendance were former President Bill Clinton — a dear friend of Mays — Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, executive and former manager and player Joe Torre, Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson and Juan Marichal and retired managers Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou. Former Giants owner Bob Lurie, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and former Mayor Willie Brown, and retired longtime National Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson also attended the memorial.

Broadcaster Jon Miller, who was the master of ceremonies, also took a moment to mention a remembrance of late Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, who died 10 days after Mays on June 28, among other Hall of Famers who are gone.

Remembrances and Tributes

Clinton, who was born in Arkansas and loved the Cardinals growing up, recalled his joy listening to games on the radio as a kid.

“I lived for the games I could hear on the radio,” Clinton said. “I never got to see ‘The Catch,’ I just heard it on the radio. We didn’t get a television until I was 10 but I can still remember just sitting there soaking up the Dodgers, soaking up the Yankees and living for the Giants so I could watch Willie Mays.”

The Rev. Bill Greason, a former teammate and longtime friend of Mays, offered a recorded prayer shown on the main center field scoreboard.

Manfred credited Mays for transforming San Francisco into a baseball town, “and it stays a baseball town today.”

“There’s never been a better representative of baseball’s magic than Willie Mays. He dominated the game in every way,” Manfred said. “He didn’t merely play, he captured imaginations. He never allowed his meticulous preparation to prevent him from showing the joy that the game brought him. He inspired generations of players and fans.”

Approximately 3,400 fans were in the stands and 4,500 people total, the Giants said.

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