(CBS SF) — San Francisco Giants’ legendary slugger Willie Mays has been selected to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom next week at the White House.

The 84-year-old Mays was one of the first black players in Major League Baseball, joining the New York Giants in 1951 and moving with the team to San Francisco in 1958.

The honor appears to have come as a surprise to Hall of Famer, who told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I don’t think I would have any idea when I was young I’d get something like this. I don’t think you have words for something like this.”

Giants president and CEO Larry Baer issued a statement saying “I cannot think of a more fitting tribute for to recognize Willie for his contributions to the national pastime.”

The “Say Hey Kid” was among the 17 individuals named by President Obama Monday as recipients of the Medal of Freedom, “presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House website.

The list of 2015 recipients includes fellow baseball legend, the late Yogi Berra; along with Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Itzhak Perlman, and James Taylor.

“I look forward to presenting these 17 distinguished Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor,” President Obama wrote in a statement. “From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans.”

The ceremony will take place November 24 at the White House.


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