Remembering Willie Mays

San Mateo County Libraries is deeply saddened by the passing of the "Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays, Bay Area and San Francisco Giants legend, whose achievements from the Negro Leagues to Major League Baseball inspired communities worldwide. Beyond sports, Willie Mays is a symbol of perseverance and excellence. In wake of his passing on June 18, 2024, we take this time to remember his legacy.

About Willie Mays

Willie Mays was born 1931 in Westfield, Alabama. He was known as the "Say Hey Kid," a nickname he got in his early rookie years. He wasn't the best with names, so he'd refer to people by "say who, say what, say where, say hey." 

In 1948, at just 17 years old, he was signed to the Birmingham Barons of the Negro American League. Mays then joined the Giants in 1951, and stayed with the team as they moved from New York to San Francisco. He played for the San Francisco Giants until 1972, and finished his MLB career with the New York Mets in 1973. Although he stopped playing, Willie's career in baseball continued, as he started the Say Hey Foundation for youth baseball and joined the San Francisco Giants once again in a lifetime appointment with the organization.

A Player to Remember

Mays had an amazing career, but one of his most memorable games was "The Catch" in the first game of the World Series in 1954. It was a 2-2 tie game between Cleveland and the Giants in the eighth inning. Cleveland player Vic Wertz was up to bat, and hit it out to center field. Mays sprinted out and did a "over the shoulder catch" that had the crowd going wild. This play led to the Giants beating the Cleveland 5-2, and eventually winning the World Series that same year.

April 30, 1961, marked another one of Willie's iconic games. Mays hit four home runs in a single game, making him only one of 18 MLB players to ever accomplish this feat. By the end of the game, he ran a total of 16 bases and the Giants won 14-4 against the Milwaukee Braves.

Willie Mays was one of the greatest athletes of his time, who set many baseball records and exceled in any position he played on the field:

  • Games Played: 3,005
  • Runs: 2,068
  • Home Runs: 660
  • RBI: 1,909
  • Stolen Bases: 339
  • Batting Average: .301

Learn More About Willie Mays

San Mateo County Libraries has many resources to help you learn more about Willie's life and legacy.
Our catalog has many titles about baseball history, the negro leagues, and Willie Mays himself. Throughout his life, Willie Mays authored three books, Say Hey, 24 and My Life in and Out of Baseball, all of which are available at our libraries.
You can find articles and video clips about the Say Hey Kid's time in the baseball with the Black Life in America resource.
We also have a Biography Reference Source that's a great place to find biographies about people like Willie Mays.

In 2021, a conference room in Atherton Library was dedicated to Willie Mays, recognizing his impact and honoring his legacy. Mays was an Atherton resident for the last four decades of his life. We continue to celebrate his career and accomplishments through the Willie Mays Room at the Atherton Library. Rest in Peace, Willie Mays, and may your legacy and greatness continue to inspire us.