New York Giants' Willie Mays, takes a batting practice swing...

New York Giants' Willie Mays, takes a batting practice swing on June 24, 1954, in New York. Major League Baseball said Tuesday, May 28, 2024, that it has incorporated records for more than 2,300 Negro Leagues players following a three-year research project. Mays was credited with 10 hits for the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League, raising his total to 3,293. Credit: AP/John Lent

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Willie Mays will not be in attendance when the San Francisco Giants face the St. Louis Cardinals at Rickwood Field on Thursday in a game honoring him and the Negro Leagues.

Mays, who began his career in Alabama with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues and played for the Giants from 1951-72, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he will enjoy the game at home.

“I’m not able to get to Birmingham this year but will follow the game back here in the Bay Area," Mays said in a statement to the paper on Monday. "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, 93, is widely considered baseball’s greatest living player. He won the World Series with the Giants in 1954 and was a 24-time All-Star during his career, tied with Stan Musial for second-most behind Hank Aaron’s 25. Mays won the 1954 major league batting title and was voted NL MVP in 1954 and 1965.

MLB has been working with the city of Birmingham and Friends of Rickwood nonprofit group to renovate the 10,800-seat ballpark, which at 114 years old is the oldest professional ballpark in the United States.

There also will be a Double-A game at the ballpark between the Birmingham Barons and Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League on June 18.

Mays will still be honored during the week's festivities.

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