The world lost Major League Baseball legend Willie Mays last week. It can’t be said enough what Mays meant to “America’s Pastime.” His death comes at this pivotal cultural moment of the MLB. Ironically, it’s at a time when the MLB is beginning to embrace its legacy in its totality. Mays was alive to finally see that Negro League statistics were finally being integrated with Major League statistics. It’s poetic being that it was a league that was once a part of. So, in what might’ve been a moment he didn’t think he’d live to see, he did at the age of 93.

These moments happening in succession, and in short order, really allow fans of the MLB to have constructive conversations about its history. It’s a history that Mays is deeply etched in. Two days after his passing, the MLB held a game at Rickwood Field in Alabama. There, the San Francisco Giants would play the St. Louis Cardinals. They would play at the last operating Negro League Stadium. On this special night, in recognition of Black contributions to the sport, MLB Reggie Jackson made waves. In a powerful conversation, Jackson viscerally recalled what life was like playing in segregated times.

Jackson’s comments give you an idea of what Black athletes were up against during these eras. And I, for one, continue to marvel at how these men excelled in their fields. Mays’ career spanned 23 seasons. He played from 1948, beginning in the Negro Leagues, until 1973, ending with the New York Mets. With career averages of a .301 batting and over 3,000 hits, he is undoubtedly one of the best to ever do it. His 660 home runs ranked as third all-time at the time he retired. Today, that number still ranks as sixth, 51 years later. To say the least, it’s awe-inspiring.

The longevity of Mays’ career is to be revered. To have exhibited such an extended level of excellence shows you how much of a generational talent he was. But what I appreciated even more about Mays was his humility. Now Mays is very well before my time. But I had a great opportunity to learn so much about him by watching his HBO documentary Say Hey, Willie Mays!

Sure, I learned about the bevy of accolades earned by Mays. But what you can’t but appreciate is his love for playing the game. With all that he was able to attain as a player, his conduit for it all was his passion. You have to be passionate to do anything for 23 years straight. But to retire at 41 years old, nothing else could get you to that point except your passion. Fortunately for Mays and his family, they were able to enjoy another 51 years of his life, post-baseball.

As we continue to honor the amazing Black contributors to the game of baseball, I hope more Negro League legends get their spotlight. It’s amazing that Mays only had his story documented for HBO by the age of 91. It’s necessary storytelling that took way too long to be told. Having said that, how amazing is it that we still have some Negro League players among us. Let’s continue to honor these people and their families before they all become relics of that time. They deserve the joy bestowed upon them as Mays got to enjoy during the twilight of his life. These opportunities don’t come often. So much like this one, we have to seize the moment.