It's difficult to imagine anyone leaving a person of Martin Luther King Jr.'s stature in awe, but Giants legend Willie Mays managed to do just that.
Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., tweeted a picture Sunday of King meeting "The Say Hey Kid" in Los Angeles in 1963, just months after King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Prior to his assassination in 1968, King fostered relationships with athletes. As Dave Zirin, writing for Sports Illustrated in 2010, noted, King had a close, private relationship with legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. King also met with athletes to the Olympic Project for Human Rights shortly before his assassination.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two of the athletes who organized the Olympic Project, protested from the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics by raising their gloved fists in the Black Power salute. Carlos later told Zirin he did so thinking of King.
"Dr. King was in my mind and heart when I raised my fist on that podium," Carlos said.
Nearly seven years after they were pictured meeting in LA, Mays helped honor King in the same city.
As Tom Verducci wrote for Sports Illustrated on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Mays was one of 23 current and future Hall of Famers to participate in a charity exhibition game at Dodger Stadium on March 28, 1970 in honor of King.
Mays flew back and forth from the Giants' exhibition trip in Japan in order to participate in the exhibition. He was excused from playing, but he made a point of playing.
“This is too important to pass up,” Mays said. “At last baseball players can show their feelings about the late Dr. King and his work through the medium of this game.”
As much of an impression Mays made on King in their 1963 meeting, the civil rights leader more than returned the favor.