For other people named William Mays, see .
Willie Howard Mays, Jr. (born May 6, 1931), nicknamed "The Say Hey Kid", is an former (MLB) who spent almost all of his 22-season career playing for the , before finishing with the . He was elected to the in .
Mays won two National League (NL) (MVP) awards, ended his career with 660 —third at the time of his retirement and currently fifth all-time—and won a record-tying 12 awards beginning in 1957, when the award was introduced.
Mays shares the record of most played with 24, with and . In appreciation of his All-Star record, said "They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays."
Mays' career statistics and his longevity in the pre- era have drawn speculation that he may be the finest ever, and many surveys and expert analyses, which have examined Mays' relative performance, have led to a growing opinion that Mays was possibly the greatest all-around baseball player of all time. In 1999, Mays placed second on 's "List of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players", making him the highest-ranking living player. Later that year, he was also elected to the . Mays is one of five National League players to have had eight consecutive 100-RBI seasons, along with , , , and . Mays hit over 50 home runs in 1955 and 1965, representing the longest time span between 50-plus home run seasons for any player in history. His final appearance came on October 16 during Game 3 of the .
Mays was born in 1931 in , a former primarily black settlement near . His father, Cat Mays, was a talented baseball player with the Negro team for the local iron plant. His mother, Annie Satterwhite, was a gifted basketball and track star in high school. His parents never married. As a baby, Mays was cared for by his mother's younger sisters Sarah and Ernestine. Sarah became the primary female role model in Mays' life. His father exposed him to baseball at an early age, and by the age of five he was playing catch with his father. At age 10, Mays was allowed to sit on the bench of his father's League games.
Mays played multiple sports at Fairfield Industrial High School, averaging a then-record 17 points a game in and more than 40 yards a punt in , while also playing quarterback.Mays graduated from Fairfield in 1950.
Mays' career began in 1947, while he was still in high school; he played briefly with the in during the summer. A short time later, Mays left the Choo-Choos and returned to his home state to join the of the . Mays helped them win the pennant and advance to the 1948 , where they lost the series 4-1 to the . Mays hit a respectable .262 for the season, but it was also his excellent fielding and baserunning that made him a standout. By playing professionally with the Black Barons, Mays jeopardized his opportunities to play high school sports in Alabama. This created some problems for him with high school administrators at Fairfield, who wanted him to help the teams and ticket sales.
Over the next several years, a number of major league baseball franchises sent scouts to watch him play. The first was the . The scout who discovered him, Bud Maughn, had been following him for over a year and referred him to the Braves, who then packaged a deal that called for ,500 down and ,500 in 30 days. They also planned to give Mays ,000. The obstacle in the deal was that Tom Hayes, owner of the , wanted to keep Mays for the balance of the season. Had the team been able to act more quickly, the Braves franchise might have had both Mays and in their outfield from 1954 to 1973. The also scouted him and wanted Ray Blades to negotiate a deal, but were too late. The New York Giants had already signed Mays for ,000 and assigned him to their Class-B affiliate in .
After Mays batted .353 in Trenton, he began the 1951 season with the class AAA of the . During his short time span in Minneapolis, Mays played with two other future Hall of Famers: and . Batting .477 in 35 games and playing excellent defense, Mays was called up to the Giants on May 24, 1951. Mays was at a in when he found out he was being called up. A message flashed up on the screen that said: "WILLIE MAYS CALL YOUR HOTEL." He appeared in his first major league game the next day in . Mays moved to , where his mentor was a official and former Harlem Rens basketball legend "Strangler" .
Mays began his major league career on a sour note, with no hits in his first 12 . On his 13th at-bat, however, he hit a towering home run over the left field roof of the off of future . Spahn later joked, "I'll never forgive myself. We might have gotten rid of Willie forever if I'd only struck him out." Mays's batting average improved steadily throughout the rest of the season. Although his .274 average, 68 RBI and 20 homers (in 121 games) were among the lowest of his career, he still won the 1951 . During the comeback in August and September 1951 to tie the in the pennant race, Mays' fielding and strong throwing arm were instrumental to several important Giants victories.Mays was in the when hit the against and the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the three-game playoff 2-1 after the teams were tied at the end of the regular season.
The Giants went on to meet the in the . In Game 1, Mays, and comprised the first all- outfield in major league history four years after the color line was broken.Mays hit poorly while the Giants lost the series 4-2. The six-game set was the only time that Mays and retiring Yankee slugger would compete against each other.
Mays was a popular figure in . Magazine photographers were fond of chronicling his participation in local stickball games with kids. It was said that in the urban game of hitting a rubber ball with an adapted broomstick handle, Mays could hit a shot that measured "six sewers" (the distance of six consecutive New York City manhole covers, nearly 300 feet).
The United States Army Mays in 1952 during the (1950–53) and he subsequently missed most of that season and all of the 1953 season. Mays spent much of his time in the Army playing baseball at , Virginia. It was at Fort Eustis that Mays learned the basket catch from a fellow Fort Eustis outfielder, Jerry Salvador. Mays missed about 266 games due to military service.
In , Mays returned to the Giants and hit for a league-leading .345 batting average while slugging 41 home runs en route to his only World Series championship. Mays won the National League and the as top professional athlete of the year. He also was selected as an All-Star for the first of 19 consecutive seasons (20 total) and replaced in left field during the 4th inning of the All-Star Game. The Giants won the and the , sweeping the in four games. The 1954 series is perhaps best remembered for "", an over-the-shoulder running grab by Mays in deep center field of the Polo Grounds of a long drive off the bat of during the eighth inning of Game 1. Considered the iconic image of Mays' playing career and one of baseball's most memorable fielding plays, the catch prevented two Indian runners from scoring, preserving a tie game. The Giants won the game in the 10th inning on a three-run home run by , with Mays scoring the winning run. The 1954 World Series was the team's last championship while based in New York. The next time the franchise won was 56 years later when the won the World Series in 2010.Mays in 1954.
Mays went on to perform at a high level each of the last three years the Giants were in New York. In 1955, he led the league with 51 home runs. In 1956, he hit 36 homers and stole 40 bases, being only the second player, and first National League player, to join the "". In 1957, the first season the award was presented, he won the first of 12 consecutive . At the same time, Mays continued to finish in the National League's top-five in a variety of offensive categories. Mays, (also with 12), , , and are the only outfielders to have ten or more career Gold Gloves. In 1957, Mays become the fourth player in major league history to join the (2B, 3B, HR), something no player had accomplished since 1941. Mays also stole 38 bases that year, making him the second player in baseball history (after in 1911) to reach 20 in each of those four categories (doubles, triples, homers, steals) in the same season.
After the 1957 season, the Giants franchise relocated to San Francisco, California. Mays bought two homes in San Francisco, then lived in nearby . As he did in 1954, Mays vied for the National League batting title in 1958 until the final game of the season. Mays collected three hits in the game to finish with a career-high .347, but ' won the title with a .350 batting average. He did manage to share the inaugural with Stan Musial in May (no such award was given out in April until 1969), batting .405 with 12 HR and 29 RBI; he won a second such award in September (.434, 4 HR, 18 RBIs).
In 1959, the Giants led by two games with only eight games to play, but only won two of their remaining games and finished fourth, as their pitching staff collapsed due to overwork of their top hurlers. The Dodgers won the pennant following a playoff with the . As he did in New York, Mays would "play around" with kids playing sandlot ball in San Francisco. On three occasions in 1959 or 1960, he visited Julius Kahn Playground, five blocks from where he lived, including one time Giant players and .
was hired to manage the Giants before the start of the 1961 season and named Mays team captain. The improving Giants finished 1961 in third place and won 85 games, more than any of the previous six campaigns. Mays had one of his best games on April 30, 1961, and driving in eight runs in a 14–4 win against the Milwaukee Braves at . Mays went 4-for-5 at the plate and was on deck for a chance to hit a record fifth home run when the Giants' half of the ninth inning ended.Mays is the only Major Leaguer to have both three triples in a game and four home runs in a game.
The Giants won the National League pennant in 1962, with Mays leading the team in eight offensive categories. The team finished the regular season in a tie for first place with the , and went on to win a three-game playoff series against the Dodgers, advancing to play in the . The Giants lost to the in seven games, and Mays batted .250 with two extra-base hits. It was his last World Series appearance as a member of the Giants.
In the 1963 and 1964 seasons Mays batted in over 100 runs and hit 85 total home runs. On July 2, 1963, Mays played in a game when future members and each threw 15 scoreless innings. In the bottom of the 16th inning, Mays hit a home run off Spahn for a 1–0 Giants victory. He won his third NL Player of the Month Award in August (.387, 8 HR, 27 RBI).
Mays won his second MVP award in 1965 behind a career-high 52 home runs. On September 13, 1965, he hit his 500th career home run off . Warren Spahn, off whom Mays hit his first career home run, was his teammate at the time. After the home run, Spahn greeted Mays in the dugout, asking "Was it anything like the same feeling?" Mays replied "It was exactly the same feeling. Same pitch, too." On August 22, 1965, Mays and acted as peacemakers during a 14-minute brawl between the Giants and Dodgers after San Francisco pitcher Juan Marichal had bloodied Dodgers catcher with a bat. He also won his fourth and final NL Player of the Month award in August (.363, 17 HR, 29 RBI), while setting the NL record for most home runs in the month of August (since tied by Sammy Sosa in 2001).
Mays played in over 150 games for 13 consecutive years (a major-league record) from 1954 to 1966. In 1966, his last with 100 RBIs, Mays finished third in the National League MVP voting. It was the ninth and final time he finished in the top five in the voting for the award. In 1970, the named Mays as the 1960s "Player of the Decade."
Mays hit his 600th home run off San Diego's in September 1969. Plagued by injuries that season, he managed only 13 home runs. Mays enjoyed a resurgence in 1970, hitting 28 homers, and got off to a fast start in 1971, the year he turned 40. He had 15 home runs at the break but faded down the stretch and finished with 18. Mays helped the Giants win the division title that year, but they lost the to the .
During his time on the Giants, Mays and fellow player were friends. When Bobby's son, , was born, Bobby asked Mays to be Barry's godfather. Mays and the younger Bonds have maintained a close relationship ever since.
In May 1972, 41-year-old Mays was traded to the for pitcher and ,000 (0,000 today). At the time, the Giants franchise was losing money. Owner could not guarantee Mays a pension after retirement and the Mets offered Mays a coaching position upon his retirement.
Mays had remained popular in New York long after the Giants had left for San Francisco, and the trade was seen as a public relations coup for the Mets. Mets owner , who was a minority shareholder of the Giants when the team was in New York, had long desired to bring Mays back to his baseball roots and was instrumental in making the trade. In his Mets debut on a rainy Sunday afternoon at on May 14, 1972, Mays put New York ahead to stay with a fifth-inning home run against and his former team, the Giants. On August 16, 1973 of the following season, in a game against the with on the mound, Mays hit a fourth inning solo home run over the right-center field fence. It was the 660th, and last, home run of his major league career.
Mays played a season and a half with the Mets before retiring; he appeared in 133 games. The Mets honored him on September 25, 1973, (Willie Mays Night) where he thanked the New York fans and said goodbye to baseball. He finished his career in the , which the lost to the in seven games. Mays got the first hit of the Series, but had only seven at-bats (with two hits). The final hit of his career came in Game 2, a key single to help the Mets win. He also fell down in the outfield during a play where he was hindered by the glare of the sun and by the hard outfield. Mays later said, "growing old is just a helpless hurt." His final at bat came on October 16, in Game 3 where he came in as a pinch hitter but grounded into a . Mays made his 20th and last All-Star appearance (20 seasons) and 24th All-Star Game appearance on July 24, 1973 when he was used as a pinch hitter.
In 1972 and 1973, Mays was the oldest regular position player in baseball. At age 42, he became the oldest position player to appear in a World Series game. Mays retired after the 1973 season with a lifetime batting average of .302 and 660 home runs. His lifetime total of 7,095 outfield remains the major league record.Mays is the only major league player to have hit a home run in every inning from the 1st through the 16th innings. He finished his career with a record 22 extra-inning home runs.
After Mays retired as a player, he remained an active personality. Just as he had during his playing days, Mays continued to appear on various TV shows, in films and in other forms of non-sports-related media. He remained in the New York Mets organization as their hitting instructor until the end of the 1979 season. It was there where he taught future Mets star his famous basket catch.
On January 23, 1979, Mays was elected to the in his first year of eligibility. He garnered 409 of the 432 ballots cast (roughly 95 percent); referring to the other 23 voters, acerbic columnist wrote, "If Jesus Christ were to show up with his old baseball glove, some guys wouldn't vote for him. He dropped the cross three times, didn't he?"
Mays took up a few years after his promotion to the major leagues and quickly became an accomplished player, playing to a handicap of about four. After he retired, he played golf frequently in the San Francisco area.
Shortly after his Hall of Fame election, Mays took a job at the Park Place Casino (now ) in , . While there, he served as a Special Assistant to the Casino's President and as a greeter. After being told by that he could not be both a coach and baseball goodwill ambassador while at the same time working for Bally's, Mays chose to terminate his baseball relationships. In 1985 , Kuhn's successor, decided to allow Mays and to return to baseball. Like Mays, Mantle had gone to work for an Atlantic City casino and had to give up any baseball positions he held.
At the in 1985, former Mets teammate testified that Mays kept a bottle of liquid amphetamine in his locker at . Milner admitted, however, that he had never seen Mays use amphetamines and Mays himself denied ever having taken any drugs during his career.
Since 1986, Mays has served as Special Assistant to the President of the San Francisco Giants. Mays' number 24 is retired by the San Francisco Giants. , the Giants stadium, is located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. In front of the main entrance to the stadium is a larger-than-life statue of Mays. He also serves on the advisory board of the , a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping former Major League, Minor League, and Negro league players through financial and medical difficulties.
On February 10, 2010, Mays appeared on , discussing his career and a new biography, Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend, by .
A frequent traveler, Mays is one of 66 holders of ' lifetime passes.
When Mays' tied him for third on the all-time home run list, Mays greeted and presented him with a diamond-studded (given to Mays when he carried the torch during its tour through the United States). In 1992, when Bonds signed a free agent contract with the Giants, Mays personally offered Bonds his retired #24 (the number Bonds wore in ) but Bonds declined, electing to wear #25 instead, honoring his father, , who wore that number with the Giants.
Willie Mays Day was proclaimed by former mayor and reaffirmed by mayor to be every May 24 in San Francisco, paying tribute not only to his birth in the month (May 6), but also to his name (Mays) and jersey number (24). The date is also the anniversary of his call-up to the major leagues.
On May 24, 2004, during the 50-year anniversary of , Mays received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from .
On December 6, 2005, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplishments on and off the field.
On July 30, 2006, he was the Tee Ball Commissioner at the 2006 .
On June 10, 2007, Mays received an honorary from .
At the in San Francisco, Mays received a special tribute for his legendary contributions to the game and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
On December 5, 2007, California Governor and First Lady inducted Mays into the , located at .Mays with President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One, July 14, 2009.
On June 4, 2008, Community Board 10 in voted unanimously to name an eight-block service road that connects to the Harlem River Drive from 155th Street to 163rd Street running adjacent to his beloved Polo Grounds—Willie Mays Drive.
On May 23, 2009, Mays gave the commencement address at and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
On July 14, 2009, he accompanied to aboard for the .
On March 19, 2010, he was inducted into the African-American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame.
On May 6, 2010, on the occasion of his 79th birthday, Mays appeared on the floor of the where they proclaimed it Willie Mays Day in the state.
On May 15, 2010, Mays was awarded the Major League Baseball Beacon of Life Award at the Civil Rights game at Great American Ball Park.
Mays has been mentioned or referenced in many popular songs. recorded the song "Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song)" in 1955. The band makes reference to Mays in the song "One Arm Steve" from their album . 's song "" has the refrain "Willie, Mickey and the Duke", which subsequently became the title of an award given by the New York Baseball Writers Association. mentioned Mays, and in his song "". His name was also used on the album in the song "I Shall Be Free", and in 's song "." and Kurt Lipschutz (pen name, klipschutz) co-wrote the song "Willie Mays is Up at Bat" for Prophet's 2012 album, a tribute to San Francisco. Mays is also mentioned in "Our Song" by singer-songwriter from the 2007 album . He is also the subject of the 1994 song "Homerun Willie" by .
Mays was mentioned numerous times in 's comic strip . One of the most famous of these strips was originally published on February 9, 1966. In it, is competing in a class spelling bee and he is asked to spell the word, "Maze". He erroneously spells it M-A-Y-S and screams out his dismay when he is eliminated. When Charlie Brown is later sent to the principal's office for raising his voice at the teacher regarding the incident, he wonders if one day he will meet Willie Mays and will have a good laugh together about the incident.
Willie Mays Parkway and Willie Mays Park in were named after Mays.
Mays also appears on 's "Adentro" music video, where he gives to lead singer, a bag containing a pair of sunglasses, a 's baseball uniform, and a baseball bat signed by him, who then will be used by René to destroy his own luxury car, a , in an attempt to widespread a message to youth about how irresponsible promoting of ostentatious luxury excesses in urban music as a status symbol, have them all killing between themselves.
In the movies and , the center fielder for the is named Willie Mays Hayes. He was originally portrayed by a then-unknown , but replaced Snipes in the sequel.
In 1956, Mays persuaded many of Major League Baseball's biggest black stars to go on a tour around the country after the season had ended to play exhibition games. While much of the tour was undocumented, one venue was Andrews Field, located in , on October 16. Among the players who played in that game were Mays, , , , , , , , and .
In November 2015, Mays was awarded the by during a ceremony at the . At the ceremony Obama credited Mays' baseball career with his own success, saying, "Willie also served our country: In his quiet example while excelling on one of America's biggest stages [he] helped carry forward the banner of civil rights", adding, "It's because of giants like Willie that someone like me could even think about running for president."
In addition to appearances in baseball documentaries and on talk shows, Mays has appeared in several sitcoms over the years, always as himself. He appeared as the mystery guest during different incarnations of the long-running game show . He was in three episodes of 's : "Play Ball" and "My Son the Catcher" (both 1964) and "Calling Willie Mays" (1966). Also in 1966, he appeared in the "Twitch or Treat" episode of , in which Darrin Stephens asks if Mays is a warlock, and Samantha Stephens replies, "The way he hits? What else?" In 1989, he appeared in , in the episode "You Love Me, Right?", and in the episode "The Field" of . Additionally, he had performed "Say Hey: The Willie Mays Song" on episode 4.46 of the in 1954.
Mays also voiced himself in the 1972 animated film .
Mays married Marghuerite Wendell Chapman (1926–2010) in 1956, and they adopted their son Michael, who was born in 1959. The couple divorced in 1962 or 1963, varying by source. Mays married Mae Louise Allen in November 1971; she died on April 19, 2013, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. As of 2000, Mays lived in , in a house he bought in 1969.
It is not clear how Mays became known as the "Say Hey Kid." One story is that in 1951, Barney Kremenko, a writer for the , began to refer to Mays as the 'Say Hey Kid' after he overheard Mays say, "'Say who,' 'Say what,' 'Say where,' 'Say hey'". Another story is that Jimmy Cannon created the nickname because Mays did not know everybody's names when he arrived in the minors. "You see a guy, you say, 'Hey, man. Say hey, man,'" Mays said. "Ted [Williams] was the 'Splinter'. Joe [DiMaggio] was 'Joltin' Joe'. Stan [Musial] was 'The Man'. I guess I hit a few home runs, and they said 'There goes the 'Say Hey Kid."
Years before he became the "Say Hey Kid", when he began his professional career with the Black Barons, Mays was called "Buck" by teammates and fans. Some Giants players referred to him, their team captain, as "Cap."