Giants legend Willie Mays No. 24 retired by Mets in surprise Alumni Day

Willie Mays is known as one of the most prolific giants to ever play the game, but the Mets loved him long after he returned to New York.

And on Saturday, the team made that adoration official by retiring Mays’ number 24 in a surprise announcement during the Alumni Day celebration at Citi Field.

Several years after Mays and the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco in 1958, New York got a new baseball team, the Mets, in 1962.

Just 10 years later, the “Say Hey Kid” was back on the East Coast to play his final two MLB seasons with the Mets in 1972 and 1973.

Then-Mets owner Joan Payson had long wanted Mays back in New York, and the Hall of Fame outfielder hit the final 14 home runs of his 660 total as a Met after a 21-year career with the Giants on both coasts.

After Mays, no Mets player wore No. 24 until Kelvin Torve in 1990, but he quickly changed numbers after fan backlash. Both Rickey Henderson and Robinson Cano received special exemptions to wear the number when they joined the team.

Mays couldn’t be in attendance for the honor on Saturday, but the Mets released a statement from him.

“I want to thank Steve and Alex Cohen for making this day possible and embracing Mets history,” Mays said. “I can never forget what it felt like to return to New York to play for all of the loyal Mets fans. I am extremely proud to have completed my career in Queens with the Mets in the 1973 World Series. It’s an honor to have my number retired in my two favorite cities, New York and San Francisco.

“New York was a magical place to play baseball.”

Mays joins Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza, Jerry Koosman and Keith Hernandez as the Mets in having their number retired. His No. 24 was retired by the Giants in 1972.

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Although Mays’ time in a Mets uniform was short, it’s clear that his impact on the team and New York as a whole will live forever.

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