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Willie Mays' No. 24 Jersey Retired by Mets; Played 2 Seasons with NY

Adam WellsAugust 27, 2022

Willie Mays at Shea Stadium in Sept. 2008. Photo by: Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Mets pulled off a surprise jersey retirement during their old timers' day ceremony prior to Saturday's game against the Colorado Rockies.

Willie Mays, who spent the final two seasons of his career with the Mets, had his No. 24 jersey retired by the club.

New York Mets @Mets

As part of today's Old Timersโ€™ Day ceremonies, we have retired Willie Mays' No. 24. ๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’™ <a href="https://t.co/aJYhZFk1LL">pic.twitter.com/aJYhZFk1LL</a>

Anthony DiComo of MLB.com noted it was the wish of late owner Joan Payson to have Mays' number retired.

Mays is the 13th player in Major League Baseball history to have his number retired by at least two teams. The San Francisco Giants also retired his No. 24 in 1972.

He joins a group that includes Jackie Robinson (retired across MLB), Frank Robinson, Nolan Ryan, Rod Carew, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Carlton Fisk, Rollie Fingers, Gil Hodges, Greg Maddux, Roy Halladay, Wade Boggs.

There have been rumors for years that Mays was given a promise by Payson, co-founder and majority owner of the Mets from 1962 to 1975, when he was acquired by the franchise in a trade with the San Francisco Giants in 1972.

According to Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post, Payson was a minority shareholder for the New York Giants and gave the lone "no" vote when the ownership group was deciding about moving the franchise to San Francisco after the 1957 season.

When the Giants made Mays available in a trade early in 1972, Payson quickly moved to acquire her favorite player and made him a promise to ease his concerns about returning to the East Coast while no longer in the prime of his career.

"Willie, youโ€™ll be the last Met to ever wear No. 24," Payson is said to have told him, according to Vaccaro.

Payson died at age 72 in October 1975.

Kelvin Torve briefly wore No. 24 for the Mets when he debuted for the team in 1990 but switched to No. 39 after backlash. Rickey Henderson and Robinson Cano are the only other players who have worn Mays' number while playing for the Mets.

Mays retired after the 1973 season. He only appeared in 135 games as a member of the Mets, but his history with professional baseball in New York includes 762 games with the Giants from 1951 to 1957.

During his six seasons with the New York Giants, Mays was named an All-Star four times, won NL Rookie of the Year in 1951 and finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting three times, winning in 1954.

Mays led the Giants to a victory over Cleveland in the 1954 World Series. The Say Hey Kid made his famous over-the-shoulder play in center field, known as "The Catch," in the eighth inning of Game 1 to keep the score tied 2-2. New York would go on to win the game 5-2 in 10 innings en route to sweeping the series.

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