Legendary Mays honored in style

Willie Mays proved he still knows how to get around a baseball field in style Tuesday at AT&T Park.

The man considered by many to be the greatest living ballplayer was honored in a stirring tribute before throwing the ceremonial first pitch of the All-Star Game. Then, the legendary Giant climbed aboard a pink 1958 Cadillac El Dorado convertible complete with a custom “Say Hey” license plate and tossed baseballs into the crowd before exiting the field to a great applause.

What, you expected a late-model Buick?

“I think it’s a great honor because of so many great All-Stars in our game,” Mays said. “And I think the Giants really went all out.”

Mays entered the field from behind the center-field wall as orange and black streamers were shot in the air. Godson Barry Bonds of the Giants and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter then guided the 76-year-old Mays down the center of two lines created by the rosters of both All-Star teams and to a pitching rubber placed in shallow center. The “Say Hey Kid” then waved New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes back before firing one in.

“It was like ‘Hey, I can throw it there, get back,” Mays said. “That makes it fun. Loosen up the guys a little bit.”

Mays knows well what the moments leading up to an All-Star Game feel like, having played in 24 Midsummer Classics in his 22-year career (tied for the most ever with St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Stan Musial). Mays retired with a .302 average, 660 home runs and 1,903 RBIs, while also winning 12 Gold Gloves.

The last tribute of this kind came in 1999 at Fenway Park, when Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams was honored in an emotional pregame ceremony before throwing out the first pitch.

The Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game is now presented with the Ted Williams Award, though Williams himself once said “they invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays.”

Mays has the most at-bats (75), runs (20), hits (23) and stolen bases in All-Star Game history and was on the winning side a record 17 times.

melliser@examiner.com


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