Bill Clinton, Barry Bonds grace Oracle Park with speeches at SF Giants’ intimate Willie Mays celebration of life

SAN FRANCISCO — If the shower of flowers at the foot of his statue, or last week’s pregame tribute in front of 40,000 fans, served as a chance for the Giants fan base to pay public respects to their beloved Willie Mays, then the affairs on a cloudless Monday evening at Oracle Park took on the feeling of an intimate celebration of the late, great ballplayer’s closest friends.

In a testament of Mays’ stature, it was no ordinary lineup of speakers who took their turns at the dais in front of the pitcher’s mound, flanked by two bushels of orange roses, or via video messages on the scoreboard.

Baseball’s all-time home-run king, his godson.

One President of United States, Bill Clinton, in the first row, and another, Barack Obama, on the scoreboard.

A half-dozen fellow members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With Jon Miller as the master of ceremonies narrating a tour of his exploits, from the Birmingham Barons to his final games with the Giants two-and-a-half decades later, the greats on stage shared a sentiment that spoke even more of Mays, who died last month at the age of 93.

The gates of 24 Willie Mays Plaza were wide open for anyone to attend, and approximately 4,500 took the opportunity to remember Mays for more than two hours with  his son, Michael Mays, Baker, Barry Bonds, Joe Torre, commissioner Rob Manfred, Juan Marichal, Felipe Alou, Joe Amalfitano and many more.

Pointing to the sky after delivering his first public remarks in the wake of his god father’s death, Bonds echoed the reaction he had when his father, Bobby, died in 2003.

“Thank you,” Bonds said, clasping his fist in the air. “Thank you. Fifty five years ago, you put your arm around a 5-year-old boy and said, ‘Hey kid, you’re coming with me.’ I knew at that moment what I wanted to be, and that was a professional baseball player like my father and Willie.”

Speaking for approximately five minutes, Bonds said Mays adopted him “like a second son” but that “talking about one without the other seems kind of strange to me because I couldn’t have learned everything about the game of baseball without my father and Willie.”

Bonds remarks preceded those from Mays’ son, Michael, and followed a recorded message from the 44th president of the United States, who focused on the impact the ballplayer had on the civil rights movement. In 2015, Obama presented Mays the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive.

“Mays would change racial attitudes the way politicians never could … and help pave the way for the civil rights revolution,” Obama said. “There is a strong argument to be made that is the greatest player to ever live, but Wille Mays’ life went far beyond statistics. … Black or white, you could appreciate Mays’ unbridled enthusiasm.”

It all started when the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958 and Mays was tasked with finding a place to live. Initially denied his residence of choice because of the color of …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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