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Salt Lake Bees remember Hall of Famer Willie Mays on Juneteenth

Jun 19, 2024, 7:43 PM | Updated: 8:02 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — On a great day for a ball game, the Salt Lake Bees are remembering one of the game’s greatest.

Hall of Famer Willie Mays, known as the Say Hey Kid, passed away Tuesday at 93. Today the Bees took a moment to say “Hey” one last time, in a moment of silence.

Regarded as one of baseball’s all-time best, the major league’s two-time MVP (and a career 660 home runs, 12 Golden Glove awards) who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. But perhaps he’s best remembered for his over-the-shoulder grab in the 1954 World Series, simply called “The Catch.”

Despite the many years later, fans young and old are still thinking of Mays today.

“Do you know who Willie Mays is?” asked Reporter Brian Carlson.

“Yes,” said a young fan.

“Of course you do,” Carlson replied.

“He’s one of the best African American players ever,” said the young fan.

Willie Mays up to bat. (KSL TV)

“I’m still really sad. I’m really sad about Willie Mays passing. It was very emotional,” said Billy Palmer, baseball fan.

“It’s a celebratory day for one of the best baseball players, the greatest baseball player to ever play arguably,” said James Dye, former BYU football player.

For the Salt Lake Bees, the tribute is a doubleheader.

Today is also Juneteenth celebrating the end of slavery in America. To honor Utah’s black history, the Bees wore their throwback jerseys of the Salt Lake Occidentals — an all-African American Salt Lake baseball team from 1906 to 1913.

The Salt Lake Occidentals pictured in a newspaper clipping. (KSL TV)

“They were the best baseball team in Utah, and they were one of the best baseball teams in the western United States in the earlier 1900’s,” said Kraig Williams, Salt Lake Bees Communications Director.

Playing against all-white teams in Utah and the West Coast, they dominated the game.

“They took on all comers and they beat everybody … they won the state title game with 7 players, and they picked two guys out of the stands who just happened to be able to play baseball because they didn’t have their whole team available. So that tells you how good they were,” Williams said.

Fans are happy to see it.

“For them to do that for the community, for the African American Community and the state, and across the United States is amazing,” said Corey Tracy, baseball fan.

“I’m from Utah and I think it’s just a wonderful thing that we’re now uncovering the history of Black people in Utah,” said Palmer.

“It’s a great opportunity to spend a day with my family celebrating America’s pastime,” said Dye.

In addition to the tributes Wednesday, there’s a lot more the Bees plan to celebrate this season, including a tribute for the late Bees announcer Steve Klauke.

KSL 5 TV Live

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Salt Lake Bees remember Hall of Famer Willie Mays on Juneteenth