At a fundraising luncheon in San Francisco this afternoon, President Obama received an enthusiastic re-endorsement from baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who likened the thrill of sharing a stage with the nation’s first African-American president to playing in the World Series.
“We have a man that we want to get back into the White House. We need him,” said Mays, 81, who donned a baseball cap and a big grin, according to press pool reports from inside the event, which was closed to cameras.
The Giants legend told the crowd of 270 donors in the Julia Morgan Ballroom that the sense of amazement he felt in the days after Obama won in 2008 still lingers today.
“I had no idea in my lifetime that we would have an African-American guy in the White House,” Mays said.
He also recounted how he had received an invitation from Obama to fly together aboard Air Force One shortly after the election, describing the ride as particularly meaningful and memorable.
Obama embraced Mays after the introduction and offered the African-American sports star some accolades of his own.
“Willie Mays, everybody,” Obama said. “The ‘Say Hey Kid,’” he added, calling out his nickname.
Riffing off Mays’ talk, the president agreed that he has a cool plane, but added, “as cool as Air Force One is, it is much, much cooler when Willie Mays is with you on the plane.”
Obama added that he couldn’t have made history winning the presidency had it not been for ballplayers like Mays and Jackie Robinson “to lay the groundwork for a more inclusive America.”
The San Francisco luncheon was the second campaign event of the day for Obama, who is in California as part of a rec0rd-setting fundraising drive for his re-election.