Ray Negron's Playball Weekly Blog

Willie Mays will never be forgotten… Thanks Yanks for understanding! 

Last Saturday I received a phone call from long-time Mets executive Jay Horwitz. He asked me if I could possibly participate in a ceremony honoring Willie Mays.
Jay told me that Michael Mays the son of Willie and a very long-time friend of mine was adamant about me participating.

I spoke to Michael because I really wasn’t comfortable doing it since it was a Mets-Yankee game. Michael made it very clear that I had to be there because of our long relationship. He said that he needed me and Roberto Clemente Junior next to him.

I could tell by his voice that this was important to him so I said that I would definitely support him.

Harold Reynolds also participated. He has been a great friend of ours since the decade of the 80s. He had a special relationship with Willie and I guarantee you that it helped Harold be a the special person that he has always been.

Roberto has always been very close to me and Michael and you can say that we have been advising each other and loving each other forever.

I first met Willie Mays in 1974. He was not what you expected him to be. He was as strong a man as you could be and was very intelligent in so many ways. He was up to date on everything. I was introduced to Willie by Yankees outfielder Walt No Neck Williams. I was shocked when he knew the story of George Steinbrenner picking me up in the streets and that would be the running joke every time I saw him. I would soon after meet his son Michael and we would become instant friends. I remember one time telling Willie that I had to babysit his Godson Barry Bonds in 1975 when his dad Bobby played for the Yankees and Willie laughed and said… Good luck. He said it lovingly!

I always loved the relationship between Roberto and Michael. I loved the fact that they understood the magnitude of what their fathers represented to the world of baseball and to the world as a whole.

At one point Michael got to work at Yankee Stadium in the engineering department so I would see him every day. Like Roberto, Michael never went around and say … I’m Willie Mays’s son. He was just Michael.

These last few years Michael spent most of his time taking care of his father. I really admired that. I guess you can say that I have been very proud of him for doing the right thing. Just like the Clemente family, I will forever be grateful to the Mays family for the incredible support that they have given me throughout these last five decades.

Besides the Yankees uniform that I wore as a Batboy and the Pirates uniform I wore as a minor league player, I am also proud to of worn Willie Mays’s number 24 Mets uniform at the on-field ceremony for arguably baseball’s greatest player.
Special thanks to Steve and Tia Alex Cohen for honoring a great man and a person that baseball will never forget.

Cleon Jones because you meant so much to Willie. Jay Horwitz because you have always done things so right. You have always been the best at what you do.

I must thank my Boss the President of the Yankees Randy Levine because of your understanding of me being here. You always have had great respect for those players that have really made a great mark on the game.

I only ask that Roberto Clemente Jr. please help Michael in his pursuit of helping the grassroots. Just like Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, we must never forget Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays.

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