As Ted Williams once said, “They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays.” You can find this quote on Willie’s Baseball Hall of Fame plaque, along with his nickname as the Say Hey Kid. Now the legendar Willie Mays–turning 81 years old today–can look back on a career in which he scored 660 home runs. That’s currently the fourth most home runs in all major league history. He played for the New York Giants and the New York Mets, bringing both teams to many victories. Many people call him the greatest living baseball player, and we have to agree!
Willie Mays’ life is a testament to the idea that hard work and talent lead to success as long as you persevere and never give up. Here’s why we look up to this legend:
Aside from the 660 home runs throughout his career, Mays won 2 Most Valuable Player awards and a record-tying 12 Gold Gloves, starting the very first year the Rawlings Gold Glove award was introduced. In recent years, there is an agreement amongst many experts who have examined and analyzed Willie’s performances. Many agree that he may have just been the greatest all-around baseball player of all time, which doesn’t surprise us one bit! His career statistics and record-breaking play style are undeniably amazing, it’s no wonder he has achieved so much.
Willie was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, the first year he was eligible. He tied Stan Musial’s record with 24 appearances in the All-Star Game and was part of the first all-African-American outfield in major league history. He achieved great popularity in Harlem and beyond, fought in the Korean War, and finished his career with a record 22 extra-inning home runs. He’s a living legend!
Most of all, we really admire the Say Hey Kid’s determination and hard work. Without it, he’d never have gotten where he is! By the age of five, he was playing catch, and by the age of ten, he was allowed to sit on the bench at his father’s baseball games. He began his career in high school, playing for the Negro American League and working his way up to the minor leagues and the major leagues. Playing for the New York Giants, Willie began his major league career with no hits in his first 12 at bats. His first hit was a homer and his average improved steadily after that, earning him the 1951 Rookie of the Year Award. See what happens with you stick with it?
Turning 81 years old today, the Say Hey Kid is now enjoying retirement and travels frequently. He serves as Special Assistant to the President of the San Francisco Giants, for whom Mays’ number 24 is retired. We admire the passion and dedication he has had in life, always putting 110% into his game and achieving greatness with patience and perseverance. He worked hard, and he played hard. And we love that.