San Francisco Giants legend Willie Mays, an enduring icon of baseball, passed away at 93 on Tuesday, eliciting a heartfelt farewell from Barry Bonds, a fellow baseball great who regarded Mays as both his godfather and mentor.

Mays shared the field with Bobby Bonds, Barry's father, during their time in San Francisco. When Barry was born, Mays assumed the role of his godfather. This familial connection extended through Barry's career with the Giants, creating a lasting bond between Mays and the Bonds family.

Barry Bonds honoring Willie Mays

Upon learning of Mays' passing, Bonds expressed deep sorrow and heartfelt gratitude towards the influential figure in his life, both on and off the field.

Sharing his sentiments on Instagram, Bonds conveyed his immense loss, writing, “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 ⚾️”

Mays stands out as one of baseball's most remarkable success stories, transitioning from a standout in the Negro Leagues to becoming one of MLB's finest and most captivating players. His appeal and admiration span across racial lines, making him one of the sport's most beloved figures.

Willie Mays legacy

Willie Mays stands as arguably the greatest baseball player in history. Reflecting on his remarkable achievements and recognition as “The Say Hey Kid,” it's astounding to consider the breadth of his accomplishments over his 23-year career: Rookie of the Year in 1951, a World Series title in 1954, 3,293 hits, 660 home runs, 12 Gold Glove Awards, 2 NL MVP Awards, and 24 All-Star Game appearances.

Mays showcased incredible offensive prowess throughout his career, becoming just the second player in MLB history, after Babe Ruth, to hit 600 home runs. Even today, his total of 660 homers ranks sixth all-time in baseball history.

He was undoubtedly the most accomplished center fielder in baseball history. Mays’ record of 12 Gold Glove Awards for a center fielder still stands as the highest in the history of the position.

Mays' legendary over-the-shoulder catch during the 1954 World Series, where he covered more than 500 feet to snatch Vic Wertz's potential game-winning hit, remains widely regarded as the greatest catch in baseball history. Even after seventy years, it's still simply referred to as “The Catch.”

The Bonds – Mays connection

Barry Bonds home run chase -- San Francisco Giants Barry Bonds hits home run number 756 off Washington Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik breaking Hank Aaron's all-time Major League Baseball career home run record of 755 on 8/7/07 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA becoming the career all-time home run record holder.
Jack Gruber, USA TODAY Staff

Bonds was once considered a modern iteration of Mays due to his remarkable mix of power and speed, establishing himself as one of baseball's most formidable and influential players.

Barry Bonds and Mays not only shared a similar skill set but also a deep connection. Mays played alongside Bonds' father, Bobby, for almost five years with the Giants, and their bond as godfather and godson was openly acknowledged by both. Barry's decision to leave the Pirates in 1993 and join the team where his godfather had made his mark seemed like a natural progression.

“Willie was my idol, Willie was everything to me,” said Bonds in a sit down talk with Fox Sports.

Thursday's game at Rickwood Field will be an emotional one, offering the baseball community a chance to honor its rich history while also mourning the passing of a player who seamlessly connected the Negro Leagues to a unified MLB, displaying unmatched skill and charisma in the process.