LOS ANGELES, CA (Diya TV) – Baseball lost one of its all-time greats when Willie Mays passed away Tuesday. The loss was felt league-wide with different tributes pouring in for the former center fielder. The most notable recognition was the Negro Leagues tribute game Thursday night. Mays played in the Negro Leagues for three years before joining MLB. 

The game was held in Mays’ home of Birmingham, Alabama at the 114-year-old Rickwood Field, the oldest professional baseball stadium in the United States. There was already going to be a tribute and recognition for Mays but after his death, the game had more emotional resonance behind it. 

Before the ceremony at Rickwood Field, many MLB fans made sure to stop by Oracle Park to drop off flowers and pay their respects to Mays at his iconic statue outside the stadium. The game’s opening ceremony included former Birmingham Black Barons player Bill Greason throwing out the first pitch. The landmark game also featured the first all-Black officiating crew in MLB history. Both teams wore throwback uniforms with Mays’ classic 24 on the back of them.  

The St. Louis Cardinals squeaked past the San Francisco Giants 6-5 with some memorable moments in tow. Alabama native Brendan Donovan went deep in the bottom of the first to give the Redbirds the lead. Shortly after that, Heliot Ramos of the Giants hit a home run of his own to tie the game up. San Francisco manager Bob Melvin recognized the significance of a center fielder hitting a home run on a day when arguably the greatest at that position was being honored. 

“Any time you play center field for the San Francisco Giants, you think about Willie Mays,” Melvin said. “We’re down three, then all of a sudden we’re tied up with one swing of the bat.”

After the Cardinals went up by three once more, the Giants cut back into the lead but ultimately could not get over the hump. St. Louis ended up escaping with the win in a thriller of a game in a legendary and iconic setting. Cards manager Oliver Marmol could feel the impact and sentiments of this game pregame.

“I got emotional,” said Marmol. “Just knowing where you’re standing. Just the overall feel of the tribute to Willie Mays. The impact he had on people that he met, but also people he never met. That’s when you know you’ve done it right.”

The legacy of Willie Mays extends beyond baseball and into the hearts of the baseball community and the United States as a whole. As the future of MLB carries on and more generations continue to be introduced, the league has made sure that its past is not lost.