Willie Mays will not attend Negro League tribute game at Rickwood Field

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Willie Mays will not be in attendance when the San Francisco Giants play the St. Louis Cardinals at Rickwood Field on Thursday in a game honoring him and the Negro Leagues.

Mays, who began his Alabama career with the Negro Leagues’ Birmingham Black Barons and played for the Giants from 1951 to 1972, told the San Francisco Chronicle he would enjoy the home game.

“I won’t be able to travel to Birmingham this year, but I will follow the game here in the Bay Area,” Mays said in a statement to the newspaper Monday. “My heart will be with all of you who honor the Negro League players, who should always be remembered, including all of my Black Barons teammates. I wanted to thank Major League Baseball, the Giants, the Cardinals and all the fans who I will be at Rickwood or watching the game. It will be a special day, and I hope the kids enjoy it and are inspired.

Mays, 93, is widely considered the greatest living baseball player. He won the World Series with the Giants in 1954 and was an All-Star 24 times during his career, tied with Stan Musial for second behind Hank Aaron’s 25. Mays won the 1954 major league batting title and was voted NL MVP in 1954, 1954 and 1965.

MLB worked with the city of Birmingham and the nonprofit group Friends of Rickwood to renovate the 10,800-seat ballpark, which at 114 years old is the oldest professional baseball stadium in the United States.

There will also be a Double-A game at the ballpark between the Birmingham Barons and Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League on June 18.

The Mays will always be in the spotlight during the week’s festivities.

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