RIP Willie Mays

Willie Mays was a genus of one. He was a bolt of lightning, a game-changing force of athleticism and beauty on the diamond that snapped you to attention. There is no second strike of his kind of lightning. The likes of Willie Mays were seen never before and will never be seen again. Mays passed away at age 93 Tuesday, just two days before he and his fellow Negro Leaguers are to be honored at a game between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals at Rickwood Field. Opened Aug. 18, 1910, Rickwood is the oldest ballpark in America. It is the Mother Church of baseball. It is the cradle of the career of the greatest all-around player who ever lived. And now it is where we say goodbye.

Willie Mays haunted my teen years. Not because I watched baseball, but because my younger brother loved a song called “Say Hey Willie” that was sung by some little kid. No sooner did we get into our Oldsmobile station wagon – the white one with the fake wood panels – than he would start calling “Willie, Willie!” And so we’d have to listen to it three or four times every time we got in the car to go anywhere.

Total nightmare. But I did read up on Willie Mays as a result of wondering why there was this song about a baseball player, so it wasn’t a total loss. Requiescat in pace Willie.