Willie Mays

Giants honor Willie Mays in moving pregame ceremony at Oracle Park

NBC Universal, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO -- They lined up one by one, more than 40 of them, all wearing the same jersey number. 

There was manager Bob Melvin, who grew up in the Bay Area idolizing Willie Mays. There was Logan Webb, one of many to take on the face of the franchise role that Mays held for two decades. There was hitting coach Pat Burrell, who helped the Giants win their first title since Mays led the way in 1954. 

Heliot Ramos, who homered at Rickwood Field last week in a game that honored Mays, was wearing the number. So was LaMonte Wade Jr., who got to know Mays in recent years and was thrilled to find that his jersey from last Thursday's game is headed for the Hall of Fame. The Giants even had a special jersey for Sean Hjelle, the tallest player in MLB history.

On Monday, every Giants player and coach wore No. 24, a tribute to Mays, who passed away last week. It was the first time in more than 50 years that anyone affiliated with the organization has worn that number, but it's just one of many tributes in the works. 

The Giants put patches on their regular jerseys last week, and on Monday, before their first home game since Mays' passing, three of their broadcasters told stories during a pregame ceremony. 

Dave Flemming talked about why the news hit him so hard last week when he became emotional while delivering it to the KNBR audience. Duane Kuiper told a story about Mays joining him in the broadcast booth on Easter years ago and exclaiming "Jesus Christ" after an important call. Kuiper followed up by saying he would be right back with the Reverend Willie Mays. Mike Krukow spoke about how Mays never lost his passion for the game or sense of humor and was a kid all the way through the end. 

"Never in 40 years of knowing him did I see him mad," Krukow said. "He never yelled or lost his temper, because every day I saw him he was at the ballpark and there was no place he would rather be."

Mays' son, Michael, was in attendance for the ceremony, along with his godson, Barry Bonds, who caught the ceremonial first pitch. Mike Murphy, who was in the clubhouse throughout Mays' career, was on the field, as well. 

The Giants are planning to have a public celebration of Mays' life in the near future. On Monday, there was a tribute to Mays painted behind home plate and his No. 24 was mowed into the center field grass. The first out of the game against the Chicago Cubs was a fly ball to center, a perfect addition to a night meant to honor the greatest center fielder and Giant of all time. 

"He was our guy," Krukow said. "We lost our champion, but he will always be with us forever."

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