The San Francisco Giants celebrate team legend Willie Mays' 90th birthday before taking on the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on May 7, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).

Willie Mays returns to the ballpark for a special birthday bash

Giants celebrate No. 24’s 90th in an intimate party for a few thousand friends

If Willie Mays is ready to get back to the ballpark, what are you waiting for?

The world’s greatest Giant returned to Oracle Park for the first time since 2019 Friday night and it almost felt like the world had returned to normal. Except everyone was wearing masks.

Just the same, it was a swell evening at the ballyard, with balmy weather and a first-place team on the field, all in the name of a noble cause.

Let’s face it: The Giants know how to honor their own. And there’s no one bigger to honor than Mays.

The Say Hey Kid turned 90 this week and the team invited a few thousand of his closest friends and admirers to the ballpark for an intimate little party to honor the legend.

It was “Say Hey 90” night at Oracle Park, where video tributes and well wishes to No. 24 ran on the scoreboard before the current edition of the team took on the San Diego Padres.

A few minutes before the first pitch, the gates in left field opened up and in rode Willie Mays in a beautiful ‘50s-era, cream and aqua convertible as “Say Hey (The Willie Mays song)” by the Treniers played on the loudspeakers.

The man made his way around the field, waving a ballcap to the fans and receiving pure adulation in return.

Before the main event, a string of luminaries sent their best via video scoreboard, including California Governor Gavn Newsom, baseball stars Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, former Giants manager Dusty Baker, Jeffrey “The Hit Man” Leonard and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Mayor London Breed and President George W. Bush sent their best after Buster Posey homered to give the Giants a 2-0 lead in the third inning.

The whole night felt like a significant step toward normalcy as San Francisco slowly emerges from its year-long pandemic slumber. A boisterous crowd had gathered before the game at 3rd and King Streets, paying homage to the Mays statue that greets the faithful at every home game.

Inside, the crowd bumped up in size a notch, thanks to the city advancing to the yellow tier of California’s COVID protocol on Thursday, Mays’ actual birthday.

It was a nice present for all of us, even though it was Willie’s birthday weekend Who better to lead us out of this nightmare than Mays?

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The San Francisco Giants celebrate team legend Willie Mays' 90th birthday before taking on the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on May 7, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).

The San Francisco Giants team legend Willie Mays waves to the crowd during his 90th birthday celebration at Oracle Park on May 7, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).

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