Sad news to report from the San Francisco Giants family on Friday night as the team announced that Mae Louise Allen Mays, the wife Giants legend and baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays, died after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was 74.
Mae and Willie were married in November of 1971, but their relationship actually dated back ten years earlier and their initial meeting actually has a pretty funny story attached to it. Chris Haft shared that story over at MLB.com.
Their formal introduction resulted from the future Hall of Famer's most prolific day in baseball -- his four-homer performance at Milwaukee on April 30, 1961. According to Mays, Ed Sullivan flew him to New York to appear on his popular Sunday night television show. Afterward, Mays went to Small's Paradise, a Harlem nightclub owned at the time by Wilt Chamberlain. The basketball star suggested to Mays that he and Mae should meet and gave him her phone number.
The next day, as Mays related in his autobiography, he made the call.
"You don't know me, but I'm Willie Mays," he said.
"And I'm Martha Washington," a skeptical Mae replied.
It's not surprising they hit if off so well once Mae realized she was being courted by the real Willie Mays. She, too, was a terrific athlete growing in the racially segregated Homewood section of Pittsburgh, PA, where she was recognized as an accomplished sprinter. She attended the University of Pittsburgh and earned a master's degree in social work at Howard University. She would go on to do very successful work in child welfare and has been described as a “pioneer in getting single adoptions started in San Francisco.”
On Friday, Giants president Larry Baer released the following statement remembering Mae Louise Allen Mays.
"On behalf of the Giants partnership, front office, team, alumni and fans, we express our heartfelt condolences to Willie and his family with the passing of his beloved Mae," Baer said. "I was honored to know Mae and to witness how Willie loved and cared for her."
It's clear that Willie's beloved Mae was an amazing woman who worked tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of others. Like her legendary husband, she excelled at her passion, and all those who knew her, worked with her, or were touched by her were better people for their association.