REACTION: Heartbreaking Tributes Pour In After Willie Mays Sadly Passes Away … Who Is Now The Greatest Living Baseball Player??

The legendary Willie Mays has sadly passed away at the age of 93.

He was considered by many to be the greatest living baseball player at the time of his passing. He led a Hall of Fame life both on and off the field and his legacy will be forever cherished.

“My father has passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones,” Michael Mays said in a statement released by the San Francisco Giants.

“I want to thank you all from the depths of my broken heart for the unwavering love you have shown him over the years. You were his life’s blood.”

Following the announcement of Mays’ passing, tributes across the baseball (and sports) world came pouring in fast and furious.

New York Mets legend Keith Hernandez knew Mays well and spoke glowingly about him on SNY’s live broadcast of the Mets-Rangers game.

“The best player I’ve ever seen. The greatest player,” the Bay Area-native Hernandez said.

“An extraordinarily good five-tool player. You’d go to a game, he’d do something. A great catch, a great throw, a stolen base, hit a home run or he’d do it all. He was just that kind of player.”

The “Say Hey Kid” leaves behind an unforgettable legacy.

Throughout a career spanning over 20 years (1951-73), mostly with the Giants, Mays made 24 All-Star teams, won two National League MVP awards, and earned 12 Gold Gloves.

He ranks sixth all-time in home runs (660), seventh in runs scored (2,068), 10th in RBIs (1,909), and 12th in hits (3,293).

“Today we have lost a true legend,” Giants chairman Greg Johnson said in a statement.

“In the pantheon of baseball greats, Willie Mays’ combination of immense talent, keen intellect, showmanship, and boundless joy set him apart. A 24-time All-Star, the Say Hey Kid is the ultimate Forever Giant.

“He profoundly influenced not just baseball but the fabric of America. He was an inspiration and a hero who will be forever remembered and deeply missed.”

Mays’ godson – fellow Giants legend Barry Bonds – expressed his sadness over the passing and credited Mays with helping to shape him into the man he is today.

Mays’ death comes two days before the Giants are scheduled to play the St. Louis Cardinals at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, in a game honoring Mays and the Negro Leagues.

Born on May 6, 1931, in Alabama, Mays began his professional career at 17 in 1948 with the Birmingham Black Barons, leading the team to the Negro League World Series that season.

Excelling in baseball, football, and basketball in high school, Mays’ passion for baseball prevailed.

Balancing school and playing for the Black Barons, he played weekends and traveled with Birmingham when school was out.

The New York Giants noticed Mays and purchased his contract from Birmingham in 1950.

He quickly adapted, batting .353 in 81 games with Trenton that season. In 1951, Mays exceled with the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers, batting .477 in 35 games before the Giants called him up in May.

Mays’ career was interrupted by the Korean War in 1952. He played 34 games for the Giants (batting .236) before being drafted by the U.S. Army.

Stationed at Fort Eustis in Virginia, he kept his skills sharp playing regularly. Mays missed the entire 1953 season due to military service, returning to the Giants in the spring of 1954.

Despite the hiatus, Mays won the first of his two NL MVP awards that season, leading the league with a .345 batting average, 41 home runs, and 110 RBIs. He earned his second MVP in 1965.

In Game 1 of the 1954 World Series at the Polo Grounds, Mays made one of baseball’s most iconic plays.

With the score tied 2-2 and two runners on base, Cleveland’s Vic Wertz hit a 2-1 pitch deep to center field. Mays sprinted toward the wall, made a basket catch on the run, pivoted, and fired the ball back to the infield, preventing both runners from advancing.

The Giants won the game 5-2 in 10 innings. Today, the play is known simply as “The Catch.”

“It wasn’t a lucky catch,” Mays reflected years later.

On May 11, 1972, Mays was traded from the Giants to the New York Mets for pitcher Charlie Williams and $50,000. After the 1973 season, having helped the Mets win the NL pennant, Mays retired.

In 1979, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark stated that Mays “played the game with an earnestness, joy, and perpetual smile that resonated with fans everywhere.”

“He will be remembered for his integrity, commitment to excellence, and a level of greatness that spanned generations,” Clark added.

In his 22-year career, Mays led the NL in home runs four times, and when he retired, his 660 home runs ranked third in big league history.

He now ranks sixth behind Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, and Albert Pujols. (Although a few of those names are tied heavily to controversy.)

He also finished his career with 3,283 hits (12th all time) and 1,903 RBIs (10th all time).

“His incredible achievements and statistics do not begin to describe the awe that came with watching Willie Mays dominate the game in every way imaginable,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in his statement.

“We will never forget this true Giant on and off the field. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Willie’s family, his friends across our game, Giants fans everywhere, and his countless admirers around the world.”

RIP to a true legend.

With Mays sadly gone, who do you think is now the greatest living baseball player?

Hall of Fame sportswriter Bob Ryan suggests that it may very well be Yankees legend Derek Jeter … Do you agree???