Baseball greats Willie Mays and Yogi Berra are among 17 people named Monday by President Barack Obama to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor.
"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," Obama said in a statement.
Berra, who died Sept. 22 at age 90, was a Hall of Fame catcher renowned as much for his unique way of turning a phrase as for his record 10 World Series championships with the New York Yankees. Berra played in more World Series games than any other major leaguer and was a three-time American League MVP. A 15-time All-Star, Berra was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
"This honor is a fitting tribute to a man who not only represented the sport of baseball with unequaled dignity and humor, but exemplified the best virtues of our country through his military service and compassion for others," Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. "His life was truly the embodiment of the American dream."
Mays, 84, was a two-time NL MVP and is one of just eight players in baseball history to hit at least 600 home runs during his career. He played in 24 All-Star Games, won 12 Gold Gloves, compiled 660 career home runs (third of all time when he retired) and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1979.
Among the other recipients named Monday are Shirley Chisholm, Gloria Estefan, Itzhak Perlman, Stephen Sondheim, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand and James Taylor.
Other athletes who have received the Medal of Freedom include Muhammad Ali, Joe DiMaggio, Jack Nicklaus, Richard Petty, Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell and Ted Williams.
The awards are scheduled to be presented Nov. 24 at the White House.