SF Giants fans share personal memories of Willie Mays at memorial event

SAN FRANCISCO — As Vickie Santos stood outside Oracle Park on Monday afternoon, one of approximately 4,500 fans in attendance for a celebration of life in honor of the late Willie Mays, she held back tears as she reflected upon Mays’ life and legacy. To Santos, the Say Hey Kid wasn’t just a great baseball player. He wasn’t just a cultural icon.

He was something much more.

“A part of our youth is gone,” said Santos, 72, from Santa Clara, “but boy, the memories we have, they’ll never fade.”

Those who took the stage — among them being former president Bill Clinton, former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown and Mays’ godson Barry Bonds, among others — weren’t the only ones in attendance with memories of Mays.

Manny, 74, and Vickie Santos reminisced about the time they saw Mays at Don & Charlie’s in Scottsdale, Arizona during spring training. The couple had gotten married on Oct. 24 in honor of Mays’ famous digits, and while Manny was too starstruck to introduce himself, Vickie chatted with Mays as if they had known one another for years. During Manny’s time working at a post office, his route number was, also, 24.

“I didn’t want an autograph. I didn’t need to have a picture taken with him. I just wanted him to know what he had meant to us through the years,” Vickie said of the encounter at the legendary steakhouse that served as a second home of sorts for baseball legends when they visited Arizona. “I tell him that we got married on the 24th of October. He goes, ‘Oh, that’s my number.’ I said to him, ‘I know Willie. My husband-to-be said if we get married on the 24th, I will never forget our anniversary.’ And (Manny) never has.”

“I grew up watching Willie and I gravitated to him right away,” Manny said. “I just loved the way he played. When I was a little guy, I wanted to play like that.”

Ronnie Demer, 74, had a story of his own to share. Sometime during the late ’80s or early ’90s, Demer, born in San Francisco and raised in Richmond, was on a ski trip with the National Brotherhood of Skiers when he ran into Mays. Having watched Mays during his childhood, Demer seized the opportunity to chat with his idol. After chatting with Mays for several hours, Demer took a photo with Mays and former tight end Marv Fleming — a photo that he brought to the celebration of life in a ziplock bag.

Among those in attendance for Willie Mays’ celebration of life is 74-year-old Ronnie Demer, who took a photo with Mays and former tight end Marv Fleming in the late-80s, early-90s at a ski convention.

— Justice delos Santos (@justdelossantos) July 8, 2024

“He was everything,” Demer said. “He was my icon, my hero, my legend. When we were little kids playing baseball, everybody was like, ‘I’m Willie Mays.’ ‘No, I’m Willie Mays!’ … Everybody wanted to be Willie Mays and make the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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