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In a surprise move, the New York Mets retired the number 24 in honor of Willie Mays on Old Timers’ Day.
Mays began his career with the then-New York Giants in 1951, and spent 15 seasons with the team while they were in San Francisco.
Outfielder Willie Mays, No. 24 of the New York Mets, bats during a Major League Baseball game circa 1973 at Shea Stadium in the Queens borough of New York City. Mays played for the Mets from 1972-73. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
However, in 1972, the original owner of the Mets, Joan Payson, made due on her promise to bring the “Say Hey Kid” back to the East Coast, acquiring him in a trade.
Mays spent most of that season, and the entirety of the 1973 season, with the Mets and played in the World Series with them in his final big league season. The Mets lost to the Oakland Athletics in seven games.
Former New York Mets players Willie Mays and Ray Knight walk onto the field after the game against the Florida Marlins to commemorate the last regular season baseball game ever played in Shea Stadium on September 28, 2008, in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
“I want to thank Steve and Alex Cohen for making this day possible and embracing Mets history,” Mays said, via SNY. “I can never forget the way it felt to return to New York to play for all the loyal Mets fans. I’m tremendously proud I ended my career in Queens with the Mets during the ’73 World Series. It’s an honor to have my number retired in my two favorite cities – New York and San Francisco. New York was a magical place to play baseball.”
Mays is one of the greatest baseball players of all time — he hit 660 home runs, No. 6 all time, while hitting .301 in his career, racking up 3,293 hits in 23 big league seasons.
The 91-year-old won two MVPs, 12 Gold Glove Awards and was a top-six vote getter for the MVP award another 12 times. He was named an All-Star 24 times and won the World Series in 1954 with the Giants. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
Over 65 former Mets attended the festivities at Citi Field for their first Old Timers’ Day since 1994.
Mays become the seventh person to have his number retired by the team, joining Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza, Jerry Koosman, and Keith Hernandez.
American baseball player Willie Mays (#24), of the New York Mets, steps up to home plate during a game (against the Chicago Cubs) at Shea Stadium, in the Corona neighborhood of Queens, New York, New York, August 5, 1972. (Walter Leporati/Getty Images)
Robinson Cano wore the number earlier this year, but he was designated for assignment in May.