Saying Bye to the Say Hey Kid

The baseball world got a lot smaller on Tuesday with the death of Willie Mays, the Say Hey kid.

Willie, who passed away at the age of 93, had been in declining health for a number of years. Still, his presence was felt at every game at the San Francisco Giants ballpark. The name of the park changed 4 times over the last quarter century, but the address remains the same: 24 Willie Mays Plaza.

Willie started his career in the Negro Leagues, and entered the majors just a few years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. In 1963, his $105K salary was the highest in baseball. (Shohei Otani of the Dodgers is today’s highest paid player, with a base salary of $70 million—quite a big difference!).

A 24-time All Star, Willie played his entire career in New York and San Francisco—first for the Giants, then his final years with the NY Mets. He has been called the second-best player in baseball history, after Babe Ruth.

But it’s not just his amazing career that people will remember about Mays. It’s the dedicated mentor who encouraged and advised generations of young players. The kind, gentle man who attended Giants games and interacted with fans even after his vision deteriorated and he had trouble getting around.

There will never be another Willie Mays, but one has to believe somewhere up there, the Willies (Mays and McCovey)—together with Gaylord Perry, Monte Irwin, and others—are having a heck of an incredible pickup game.

Just say hey.


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