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The Say Hey Kid: A Tribute to Willie Mays

On June 18, 2024, the baseball world mourned the loss of a true legend: Willie Howard Mays Jr., affectionately known as “The Say Hey Kid.” His remarkable career spanned 23 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), leaving an indelible mark on the sport.

Early Years and Rise to Stardom Born on May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama, Mays was an all-around athlete. He made his professional debut with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League in 1948. The New York Giants signed him in 1950, and he burst onto the MLB scene in 1951, winning the Rookie of the Year Award after hitting 20 home runs.

Historical Achievements Mays’s achievements are staggering:

  • 24-time All-Star: Tied for second-most in history.

  • NL MVP Awards: He won twice (1954 and 1965).

  • Gold Glove Awards: An astounding 12 times (1957–1968).

  • NL Batting Champion: In 1954.

  • NL Home Run Leader: Four times (1955, 1962, 1964, 1965).

  • NL Stolen Base Leader: Four consecutive years (1956–1959).

The Catch Mays’s over-the-shoulder catch during Game 1 of the 1954 World Series remains iconic. In deep center field, he tracked down a long drive by Vic Wertz, snatching the ball with his back to the infield—an astonishing display of athleticism and timing. That catch epitomized Mays’s greatness and helped propel the Giants to their last World Series title before their move to San Francisco.

Giants, Mets, and Legacy Mays spent most of his career with the New York / San Francisco Giants (1951–1972). He won another MVP Award in 1965 and led the Giants to the 1962 World Series (though they fell to the New York Yankees). In 1972, he was traded to the New York Mets, where he played until his retirement after the 1973 World Series.

The Greatest Ever? Why is Willie Mays considered by many as the greatest baseball player ever? His combination of power, speed, fielding prowess, and charisma set him apart. His 660 home runs, .301 career batting average, and 3,293 hits attest to his excellence. But it was more than numbers—it was the way he played the game, the joy he brought to fans, and the impact he had on generations of players.

Hall of Fame Induction In 1979, Mays was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame with an impressive 94.7% vote share on the first ballot. His legacy endures, and his No. 24 jersey hangs retired both in San Francisco and New York.

As the baseball community reflects on his life, we remember Willie Mays not just as a player but as a symbol of the game’s magic—a kid who said “hey” with every swing, catch, and stolen base. Farewell, Say Hey Kid. Your legacy lives on

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