The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals will be playing a Negro League tribute game Thursday in Birmingham, Alabama's Rickwood Field, and one of the greatest players of all time was originally scheduled to be there. Giants legend Willie Mays was supposed to be the center of attention at the game's festivities, but he'll no longer be attending.

Mays released a statement Monday, via the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea.

“I'm not able to get to Birmingham this year but will follow the game back here in the Bay Area,” Mays said. “My heart will be with all of you who are honoring the Negro League ballplayers, who should always be remembered, including all my teammates on the Black Barons. I wanted to thank Major League Baseball, the Giants, the Cardinals and all the fans who'll be at Rickwood or watching the game. It'll be a special day, and I hope the kids will enjoy it and be inspired by it.”

Mays played for the Negro League's Birmingham Black Barons in 1948, helping them reach the Negro League World Series, where they lost 4-1 to the Homestead Grays. The 93-year-old then played for the Giants from 1951-72, putting together one of the greatest baseball careers ever. He's widely considered the game's greatest living player.

What made Mays stand out amongst the sport's storied history?

Mays displayed a perfect blend of hitting and defense with the Giants

Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays walk off the field after being honored as the greatest living baseball players prior to the 2015 MLB All-Star Game, Tuesday, July 14, 2015, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
© Kareem Elgazzar / USA TODAY NETWORK

“The Say Hey Kid” entrenched himself in baseball lore with both his bat and his glove. Mays was known for his patented over-the-shoulder catches in the Polo Grounds deep center field, including “The Catch” in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. The 24-time All-Star caught a 425-foot drive from Cleveland Indians' hitter Vic Wertz in the eighth inning, preserving a tie game. San Francisco went on to win the game and the series in a 4-0 sweep.

Mays' accolades include two NL MVPs, NL Rookie of the Year in 1951, 12 Gold Glove Awards, and one NL batting title (1954). He also was the NL home run leader four times, as well as the stolen bases leader four times. The phenom finished his career batting .301, with 660 homers and 1,909 RBI. He still ranks sixth all-time in homers.

Mays later explained why he won't attend Thursday's game, via Sportsnet.

“I'd like to be there, but I don't move as well as I used to,” Mays continued. “So I'm going to watch from my home. But it will be good to see that,” he later said in his statement. “I'm glad that the Giants, Cardinals and MLB are doing this, letting everyone get to see pro ball at Rickwood Field. Good to remind people of all the great ball that has been played there, and all the players. All these years and it is still here. So am I. How about that?”

If anyone deserves to rest at home, it's Mays. What's most important is for baseball's newest generation of fans to learn about and appreciate his impact on the game.