Willie Mays won't attend Negro League tribute game in Alabama

Willie Mays will not be attending the Negro League tribute game between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, Mays confirmed to The San Francisco Chronicle.

The Giants and the Cardinals are set to face off at Rickwood Field this week to pay tribute to Mays as well as the Negro Leagues. Mays, who is now in his early 90s, started his career in the 1950s, when he played in the Negro League for the Birmingham Black Barons. He went on to play for the Giants until the early 1970s. 

The San Francisco Chronicle received a statement from Mays confirming his decision on Monday. 

"I'm not able to get to Birmingham this year but will follow the game back here in the Bay Area," Mays said. "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."-- Willie Mays

Friends of Rickwood is a nonprofit that has been charged with preserving the Rickwood ball park, the oldest professional ballpark in the United States.

Gerald Watkins, chairman and executive director of Friends of Rickwood, told KTVU of the effort, "There was talk about a wrecking ball, and a group of concerned citizens, mostly gentlemen who had been here with their fathers or grandfathers," said Watkins. "We said we can’t lose this building, can’t lose this facility."