'My heart is on the floor': Baseball world reacts to Mays' passing

June 19th, 2024

The baseball world is mourning the passing of , one of the greatest players in the history of the game. Here is what current and former players, managers and more had to say about the all-time great after news of Mays' passing broke on Tuesday.

, seven-time MVP outfielder and Mays’ godson
“I am beyond devastated and overcome with emotion. I have no words to describe what you mean to me -- you helped shape me to be who I am today. Thank you for being my Godfather and always being there. Give my dad a hug for me. Rest in peace Willie, I love you forever. #SayHey”

, Yankees outfielder
“It's terrible, terrible news. I was a big Willie Mays fan. What he meant to the game, what he meant to California, all the Giants fans out there, especially me growing up -- you wanted to play like Willie, and make those catches that he did. The numbers he put up on the field and what he did are impressive, but him as a person, him as a human being, was even bigger. He was bigger than baseball, man. He was something special. And the baseball world is definitely gonna be missing a great one.”

Did you have any interactions with him?
“I've got a family friend that's pretty close with his family, so I got a chance to meet him. He showed me a couple of things about throwing the baseball in from the outfield, which I still remember. And I've got a couple of cool things that are signed in my childhood room still. So that's pretty cool.”

, Pirates outfielder
“Before there was Bonds and Griffey and all these guys, and Stargell, there was Willie Mays. He was the guy who before Rickey Henderson, before all these great center fielders even, there was Willie Mays. There was Willie Mays. He was a pioneer for the game. He was a guy who I was very fortunate to be on the Giants. That was one of the things that had me pretty excited going to the Giants was knowing I was going to be around people like Willie McCovey and Willie Mays and Barry Bonds and those guys. His legacy is going to live on. Anyone who has ever come in contact with Mays for even a day is going to have a story, is going to have something.” (McCutchen shared his own Mays story Tuesday.)

, Hall of Fame shortstop
“One of the best to ever play the game and even a better person. Thoughts and prayers are with Willie’s family and loved ones.”

, NL MVP outfielder and Cardinals assistant coach
“Willie Mays was Willie Mays -- one of a kind. The way he played, the way he hustled and the way he ran the bases, I just loved watching him play. And then I get to play for the Giants, and you get to meet Willie, and what a guy -- even better than I could have imagined. He was one of the humblest people I’ve ever met, but I always remembered how fast he talked. He was just so amazing to me -- somebody who grew up loving him. Getting to meet somebody like -- probably the greatest player to ever do it, I was just so honored.”

Ron Washington, Angels manager
“We’re losing all of our legends. It goes to show you how long this game has been going on. We know he’s a superstar. Baseball will definitely miss him. In the San Francisco area, he was always visible, always available for anybody. We’re going to sorely miss him.

“I met Willie one time when I went there to play in San Francisco. I was sitting in the dugout and went over to introduce myself. One thing I remembered about it is that he knew who I was. At the time, I was nobody. It’s bad because I knew the world was looking forward to him at Rickwood on Thursday. And now he won’t be there. He’ll just be there in spirit.”

44th President Barack Obama
“Willie Mays wasn’t just a singular athlete, blessed with an unmatched combination of grace, skill and power. He was also a wonderfully warm and generous person - and an inspiration to an entire generation. I’m lucky to have spent time with him over the years, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family.”

, Giants pitcher (via Andrew Baggarly, The Athletic)
"It was hard at first. I took my hat off and I was looking at the scoreboard and just thinking about him. I kind of looked at the umpire and I was like, 'I think you need to stop the clock.' I needed to take a moment to think about it and be prideful for the jersey I was wearing, the hat I was wearing, knowing Willie did the same."

, six-time All-Star pitcher
“RIP Willie Mays. You changed the game forever and inspired kids like me to chase our dream. Thank you for everything that you did on and off the field. Always in our hearts”

46th President Joe Biden
"We remember Willie Mays, a baseball legend and part of a long-line of Black patriots who have helped us see a better version of ourselves as Americans and as a nation. Jill and I send our love to the Mays family, his adoring fans, and all those he will continue to inspire with his one-of-a-kind legacy."

, Cardinals shortstop
About Thursday’s MLB at Rickwood Field game, which will honor Mays’ life and career
"I feel like it was already in his honor, but yeah, now it's more of I guess a little different mood to it. But I mean just being able to be around him for years was really special, and just being able to hear him talk -- every spring he would come and talk to us and tell stories and stuff like that. So just being able to be around that, listening to one of the best players ever play the game was really cool and special to me -- and being able to talk to him and all that over the years. So I thought it was already really cool that there was gonna be a game kind of in his honor in a way, but -- I don't know if it changes anything necessarily, but it's just cool to be able to be a part of that."

, Hall of Fame outfielder (via MLB Network)
“My heart is on the floor. That's the best way I can describe it … To hear the news today is devastating.” More >

, Phillies first baseman
"One of the greatest players of all time. It's sad for the sport, obviously, and my condolences to him and his family. That's going to be a big miss for Major League Baseball. I had the opportunity to meet him and shake his hand. What an incredible career he had, overcoming a lot of stuff and just the impact he had on the game -- he's definitely going to be missed."

Rob Thomson, Phillies manager
"Just a sad day for baseball. This is a legend. Not just the player, but the character of the man. He's a baseball lifer. Obviously, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. It's just a sad day."

, three-time All-Star outfielder
"I always felt like a big kid playing this game, and now we will miss one of the greatest kids to ever play. Willie Mays, your legacy and impact on the game will never be forgotten. Your passion, talent, and spirit will continue to inspire generations of players and fans. Thank you for all of the unforgettable moments and the joy you brought to baseball. Rest in peace, legend."

Dave Martinez, Nationals manager
“I’ve known Willie, I was with the Giants, he was over in Spring Training with us and was coaching. Just a really great man. What he meant to baseball was unbelievable. He taught me a lot about playing the outfield when I was there. My condolences go out to his family and all of the baseball world. A Hall of Famer and what he did for this game and what he did for the fans of San Francisco, he meant a lot to the Bay Area, he really did. A tremendous person, he really was, a tremendous person. It’s sad, really sad.”

Billy Owens, Athletics assistant general manager
"Devastated. Say Hey was everything. He’s right there with Muhammad Ali as the greatest athlete. The excellence was documented. The style can never be duplicated. His power, speed and grace is forever unique. The catch still captures the imagination almost a century later. Willie was New York and San Francisco. I’ll watch the game at Rickwood Field this week and imagine Willie doing basket catches in center field and hitting homers into the stratosphere. Rest in peace, Say Hey Willie Mays.”

, Athletics outfielder
“Terrible news. Devastated for him and his family. The dude was an absolute legend. Bigger than baseball. I saw a picture in Tampa in the away locker room of him coming into the locker room holding a bunch of bats. I just thought that was the coolest picture I’ve ever seen. … Prayers for him and his family. He’s a guy that gave so much to the game and just had an unbelievable life. Just an absolute legend. Absolute GOAT.”

Mark Kotsay, Athletics manager
“As a kid growing up, I read an autobiography about Willie. I just wish I was half the player that he was. The catches he made and the smile he had. The impact he had on the game of baseball, his loss is felt today and will be felt for a long time.

"I never had a personal connection with him. I got to meet him in San Francisco. But the other thought that comes to mind is how close Barry Bonds was with him. I do have a personal connection with Barry, and I know Barry looked at him like another father figure, per se. But to play the same position, there’s a lot of great center fielders, but he was the pinnacle of it.”

Bruce Bochy, Rangers manager
“I'll say this, I was really lucky and fortunate. I've said this before, but this game here allows you to meet some tremendous players and people and I got to spend a lot of time with Willie during my tenure [in San Francisco] and it’s a sad day.

“He was the guy I talked to a lot. We talked baseball. He had a little office right next to mine up there and so I was fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with that man. What a legend he is. He could be the best, one of the greatest players of all time. He was so good. He’s up there with some of the greats.”

, Rangers second baseman
“I never got a chance to meet him, but just hearing stories about him and seeing old videos and I think he's probably the best player of all time, just talking about what he could do on a baseball field -- five-tool player, power hitter, great defender. He's just an all-time icon in the Bay Area."

Craig Counsell, Cubs manager
"[Mays] should be on the Mount Rushmore of baseball players and a legend in our game. I got to meet him a couple times and he was the kind of person, along with Hank Aaron, frankly, that just made you nervous, because of how great they were. And it was sad news to hear during the game today."

, Cubs outfielder
"I saw the news [during the game] and was pretty saddened by it. Wearing the No. 24, it's special. He's one of the best players in our game and even just seeing him around a few times around the field, is a true blessing. Unbelievable guy and best wishes to his family right now. I had a conversation with him one time. It was really cool. Just a legend. A true legend. It was really special."

, Cubs shortstop
"It's sad news, just finding out during the game just like everyone else. He's an icon in our game. I think probably consensus top-five player to ever grace this earth and somebody that meant a lot to a lot of people. And you could just tell by the reaction not only around our clubhouse, but just baseball in general. To lose somebody that's special, that's regarded highly in so many ways, not just on the field, is just really, really sad news. And obviously we're thinking and praying for the Mays family and anyone else involved and obviously, the Giants organization and all the other people's lives that he touched."

Alex Cora, Red Sox manager
“One of the best. He lived a great life. We used to go there to AT&T [now Oracle] Park and he was always around and he was a joy to watch and to talk to him. He's a good friend of [Orlando] Cepeda. We were always able to talk about him [with Cepeda], and learn about him. He will be missed. But what a life. He was awesome.”

Stephen Vogt, Guardians manager
"My dad's favorite player. So he talked to me a lot about Willie as a kid and I was fortunate enough to meet him when I played for the Giants. One of the greatest players to ever play our game. Maybe arguably the best. That's too bad. It's a sad day. But he was one of the greats. I was fortunate enough to meet him and get to hear a lot of stories as a kid from my dad."

What was it like meeting him?
"It was surreal. One of the people that was a god to you, right? It was just this unfathomable figure. Never really saw him on TV. You see highlights, but it's really cool to meet him and get a chance to chat with him briefly."

What did your dad like about him?
"Just that he did everything. He hit for power, he hit for average, great outfielder, great base-stealer, just played the game hard. He can do anything. One of the greatest of all time. You hear your old man talking about how great he was, my grandfather as well."

Rocco Baldelli, Twins manager
"It’s very sad news. He’s an icon in the game. There are very few players who are one of a kind. There are very few players that kind of bring certain moments and memories of the game into people’s minds and that touched people the way he did. We’ll all be thinking of him today and going forward. It’s a sad day for baseball, is what it is, but he brought a lot of joy to a lot of people too. It’s important to remember that."

A.J. Hinch, Tigers manager
"Obviously it goes without saying that we're thinking about his family and the Giants and really everybody around baseball. His name means so much to our game, so much of our history. Going through San Francisco my whole career, you were lucky if you got a sight of him. If you got a chance to see him and talk to him, he was very gracious with his time. We lost a legend."

Torey Lovullo, D-backs manager
“It’s terrible news. Baseball lost a great player and a great ambassador for the game. It’s a sad day and we’re all going to mourn his loss.”

MLB.com’s David Adler, Jordan Bastian, Jason Beck, Mandy Bell, Ian Browne, Jessica Camerato, Paul Casella, John Denton, Martín Gallegos, Steve Gilbert, Kennedi Landry, Paige Leckie, Brent Maguire, Do-Hyoung Park and Alex Stumpf contributed to this report.